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A recent technological innovation provides a much more comfortable way for patients of MDI Hospital to undergo diagnostic testing for acid reflux disease.

The disease, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, affects 24% to 30% of the US population and causes a variety of health problems from heartburn to asthma.

GERD can be difficult to diagnose.  At times, diagnosis requires feeding a catheter with a sensor into the patient’s nose and down the throat into the esophagus where it measures stomach acid being regurgitated into the esophagus. The catheter protrudes from the nose into a recording device worn by the patient for 24 hours. This can be physically and socially uncomfortable for the patient.

The new BravoTM Catheter-free pH Monitoring System provides a much more comfortable alternative for diagnosing the disease.

The system consists of two components: a small pH capsule about the size of a gelcap that is attached to the wall of the esophagus and transmits data; and a pager-sized receiver worn by the patient that receives data from the capsule.

The procedure is done on an outpatient basis at MDI Hospital by Drs. Charles Hendricks and Mike Mason of Eden Surgical Associates. With mild sedation, patients first undergo a gastroscopy, in which a thin flexible tube (endoscope) with a video camera on the end is inserted into the esophagus to determine the best location for the capsule.

The endoscope is removed and the capsule is adhered to the esophagus at the desired location with a delivery system which is also removed. The capsule then begins transmitting data to the receiver.

Within days, the capsule sloughs itself off the wall of the esophagus and passes naturally. After the study is completed, the patient returns the receiver to the hospital and the data is downloaded.

“With a catheter-based system, most patients don’t want to keep the catheter in for more than 24 hours because of the discomfort,” explained surgeon Charles Hendricks, MD. “So we are usually limited to the amount of data we can gather in 24 hours.

“Because it is more comfortable, the catheter-free system provides us with the flexibility to conduct 24 hour or 48 hour tests. It allows us to gather more data and,” emphasized Dr. Hendricks “it provides us with more reliable data.”

In the catheter-based system, because the catheter protrudes from the nose into the recording device, it can cause social embarrassment that inhibits normal daily activity, including eating, which can result in inaccurate data.

“We need people to eat what they normally eat in order to gather data that represents an average day,” Dr. Hendricks explained.

“Because the catheter-free system is more comfortable for patients, they’re willing to go about their day normally, which results in more reliable data,”  added Dr. Hendricks.
“We find that our patients are much happier with the catheter-free system,” remarked Dr. Hendricks.

“The catheter-free pH monitoring system is another example of MDI Hospital leveraging technology to provide a more patient-friendly means for diagnosis,” explained Dr. Hendricks.

Last year, the Hospital became the first site in Maine, outside the major medical centers, to offer a procedure known as Capsule Endoscopy. The procedure, in which the patient swallows pill-sized camera that takes and transmits pictures of the small intestine, is seen as a revolution in the field of medical imaging.

“Anything that enhances the comfort of our patients, and improves our diagnostic abilities is a win-win solution,” said Dr. Hendricks.

Mount Desert Island Hospital; Critical Access to Quality Care Since 1897
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