Understanding the Stretta Procedure for GERD

Closeup cross section of lower esophagus.

There is a one-way valve between the esophagus and stomach. This is called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). The LES normally opens when you swallow. It lets food enter your stomach, then closes. But when you have GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), the LES opens too often. Fluids and stomach acid can flow from the stomach back into the esophagus. This can cause difficult symptoms. Stomach acid can also hurt the esophagus and lead to long-term problems.

The Stretta procedure is a nonsurgical treatment for GERD. It uses heat waves to strengthen the muscles around the LES, so it opens less often. This helps prevent GERD.

Why the Stretta procedure is done

The Stretta procedure may be advised if you have GERD and:

  • Don’t get enough relief from GERD medicines

  • Can’t take GERD medicines

  • Don’t want to take GERD medicines long-term

  • Want to try a nonsurgical procedure for GERD

How the Stretta procedure is done

The Stretta procedure is most often done on an outpatient basis. That means that you go home the same day. During the procedure:

  • You are given medicine (anesthesia) to help you relax and to prevent pain. You may also sleep lightly during the procedure.

  • The doctor puts a thin, lighted tube (endoscope) into your mouth. He or she passes the tube down your throat and into the esophagus to your stomach. The tube sends live images to a video screen.

  • The doctor puts wires through the tube. These are moved to the LES. These wires carry controlled levels of radiofrequency energy to the LES. This heats up the tissues of the LES and makes them tighten.

  • When the procedure is done, the wires and tube are removed.

After the procedure, it takes several weeks or longer before GERD symptoms begin to improve.

Risks of the Stretta procedure

These include:

  • Bleeding

  • Infection

  • Irritation of the esophagus

  • Hole (perforation) in the esophagus

  • Trouble swallowing

  • Chest pain

  • Problems related to the anesthesia