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Physicians Group Suggests Invasive Heartburn Procedure Is Overused

An invasive procedure to deal with severe heartburn or acid reflux is being overused, according to one medical group. An endoscopy, which inserts a camera down the throat and into the stomach of a patient with acid reflux, is used to diagnose and manage symptoms. However, research suggests the procedure is ineffective in about 10 to 40 percent of patients.

New guidelines created

Physicians suggest fewer invasive procedures for people with heartburn.

Physicians suggest fewer invasive procedures for people with heartburn.

The American College of Physicians says the procedure should not be the first line of defense for anyone battling acid reflux, or GERD.

“Given the rising prevalence of chronic GERD symptoms, it is perhaps not surprising that the use of upper endoscopy for GERD indications is also rising,” WebMD states from the research.

ACP advises that screening with upper endoscopy should not be routinely performed in women of any age or in men under the age of 50 with heartburn because the incidence of cancer is very low in these populations. ACP suggests the procedure be used in patients who are not responsive to medication or are who in significant pain.

More test, more costs

Researchers suggest the procedure is one of many unnecessary tests that contribute to the rising cost of health care. According to ScienceDaily, the procedure alone costs about $800 and follow up appointments are often needed after the procedure.

“Overuse of upper endoscopy contributes to higher health care costs without improving patient outcomes,” doctors from the American College of Physicians write in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Acid reflux rates on the rise

Treatments for acid reflux vary, but can include medications like Nexium.

Treatments for acid reflux vary, but can include medications like Nexium.

Studies show an increasing number of Americans are battling severe heartburn, acid reflux and GERD. A study conducted in Norway shows a 30 percent hike in the number of people complaining about frequent heartburn between 1995 and 2009. Women seem to be more effected by the condition, and both sexes seem to be bothered by increasing heartburn as they age.