A 26-year-old Pakistani male, F.J., had been suffering from irritation in the throat, sensation of lump in the throat, burping and upper abdominal discomfort – all that were responding poorly to treatments.
On seeing his reports and examining him, Dr Amal Premchandra Upadhyay, Consultant Gastroenterologist at Aster Hospital Mankhool, knew it was not a normal case of acid reflux as the severe discomfort the patient suffered pointed towards the chronic digestive condition known as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (Gerd). This is a condition when the stomach contents move up into the esophagus due to a defect in the valve between the stomach and the lower esophagus. If untreated or poorly controlled, it can lead to ongoing symptoms, poor quality of life and possibly serious complications.
It is the increasingly sedentary lifestyles and unhealthy eating habits that result in the disruption of our general digestive process and lead to heartburn and acid reflux.
Medication such as antacids provide only temporary relief. The next level of medication – acid blockers and proton-pump inhibitors (PPI) provide longer relief but is not a permanent solution. Also, continuous or too frequent use of these medications may cause other side effects.
A longer-lasting solution is surgery, however, for people who are not keen on surgery or those who cannot take medication for various reasons or wish to avoid medication, Stretta is the alternative.
“Stretta is a non-surgical procedure that uses radio frequency energy to alter the muscle between the stomach and esophagus and thus improve reflux. The procedure is guided endoscopically and it takes approximately 45 minutes. It is done under deep sedation so that maximum patient cooperation can be obtained and the patient can return back to normal everyday activities within a few days. The procedure helps the patient becomes less dependent on medication to treat his symptoms,” said Dr Amal, explaining the procedure.
Although F.J.’s abdominal discomfort responded to treatment, it was the associated throat symptoms that were bothering the patient. The atypical nature of the symptoms also led to the delay in the patient seeking appropriate treatment. Dr Amal resorted to the Stretta procedure – an upcoming option for patients in the UAE who are suffering from reflux but are not comfortable with taking long term medications. “This is the first case where we have introduced the Stretta procedure to treat the patient at Aster Hospital Mankhool, Dr Amal told Khaleej Times.
Talking about the Stretta effect on the patient’s health Dr Amal said: “The patient reported more than 50 per cent improvement in symptoms after the Stretta procedure. He had never experienced this kind of improvement with medications. Now, he is not completely dependent on medication to control his symptoms. This has significantly improved his quality of life and his ability to participate in normal activities without worrying about the repercussions.
He added: “Typically, patients start feeling the improvement in symptoms within a couple of days. Symptoms continue to improve over time and optimal benefit can take several weeks. Most patients will be able to live without medicines and some patients can manage with a smaller dose of medicines after the procedure.”
The hospital claims it sees an average of 28 to 30 patients with Gerd every month. This is close to double the number of cases they used to see one year ago. According to the scientific and research committee of the Emirates Gastroenterology Society, as of 2014, more than 30 per cent of the UAE population suffered from acid reflux.
“There is great potential for establishing the Stretta procedure as an option for patients in the UAE who are suffering from reflux but are not comfortable with taking long term medications. The procedure itself is internationally recognised as a unique and non-surgical procedure to help patients return to normal life within a few days.”
The international success rate of Stretta is encouraging. Although in use for close to 15 years globally, Stretta is relatively new in the UAE and is gradually being introduced to other countries across the world. A study presented at the United European Gastroenterology Week (UEGW) in late 2016 showed significant relief from Gerd symptoms and elimination of PPI use in 71.9 per cent of patients 10 years after they had Stretta.
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