When it comes to managing heartburn, the basic treatments are available and reliable. Most of the 60 million Americans who suffer from heartburn at least once a month, after consulting their doctor and understanding their symptoms, find relief with one of three over-the-counter (OTC) medicines: antacids, H2-receptor antagonists, or proton pump inhibitors.

But the 19 million Americans who suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a severe form of acid reflux, may have to rely on prescription drugs or surgery. Surgery to treat GERD has existed since the 1990s, and it helps approximately 80 percent of patients relieve symptoms and complications for 5 to 10 years.

Recently, a new treatment for GERD has emerged, one which comes out of a study published in January 2009. The study is important because the treatments for GERD it focuses on have nothing to do with surgery or pharmaceuticals.

Instead, the treatments are called endoluminal therapies, and there are two of them. The first uses an endoscope to tighten the junction between the esophagus and the stomach. The second sends energy waves to the muscles of the esophagus and stomach, which improves how the valve between the two functions. This is called radio-frequency treatment.

The study, which administered the therapies to 126 patients over 4 years, found that the therapies had notable effects. In a follow-up with just over half the patients 6 months later, there were decreases in the percentage of those with moderate to severe heartburn and in medicinal dependency. Those treated with radio frequency-waves saw a decrease in coughing, swallowing difficulties, and voice symptoms.

Though the study is just one case, and though the authors suggest further research into the endoluminal therapies, they conclude that radio frequency treatment is effective in "providing symptomatic relief and reduction in proton pump inhibitor use." For those suffering from heartburn and GERD, this is most certainly interesting news.