An implanted magnetic device could be a new treatment option for people with acid reflux disease, some doctors say.

Acid reflux is a painful condition that occurs when stomach acid used to digest food floods the esophagus, causing inflammation and injury.

Although there are medications that can suppress stomach acid, they only work in 60 per cent of patients.

The new device consists of a string of magnets that are placed around the esophagus. The magnets open when food enters the esophagus, and close up to prevent stomach acid from bubbling back up.

The device is not approved in Canada but is already approved in the United States and marketed as the LINX Reflux Management System by Torax Medical, Inc., which also funded a recent study on the device's effectiveness.

In the study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the device was implanted in 100 patients in the United States. Researchers found that after three years, 64 per cent of the patients saw their acid reflux symptoms reduced by at least half, while 87 per cent could stop taking their medications altogether.

“The device is safe and highly effective. Just about everybody came off their medication and was symptomatically relieved,” said Dr. Robert Ganz of the University of Minnesota.

However, some patients with the magnetic bracelet had difficulty swallowing, and the magnets were removed from six test subjects.

“This device is for people not doing well on medication,” Ganz said. “About 40 per cent of patients with acid reflux are not well served by medications; this is an alternative.”

Others are more cautious about the treatment.

Dr. David Armstrong of McMaster University cautions that the tests have been done in only 100 patients and the results have not been compared to treatments with medications.

"Don’t jump in to this technology; it's not proven yet,” Armstrong told CTV Toronto. “Secondly, if you are seeing symptoms, see your doctor because there may be other treatments.”

Other ways to deal with acid reflux include weight loss and changing eating habits.

With a report from CTV’s medical specialist Avis Favaro and producer Elizabeth St. Philip