Doctors, engineers develop new wireless system to detect esophageal reflux

DALLAS May 29, 2007 -- UT Southwestern Medical Center doctors and UT Arlington engineers have developed a wireless monitoring system that uses electrical impulses to track esophageal reflux.

The wireless technology, called radio frequency identification (RFID), has been used in thousands of stores for tracking inventory and in identification chips implanted in some pets. Researchers combined that technology with another emerging applied science called impedance monitoring, which tracks reflux through electrical impulses.

We always want to come up with something that improves what we do on a daily basis, said Dr. Shou Jiang Tang, assistant professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern who specializes in therapeutic endoscopic and endoscopic innovations.

According to the American College of Gastroenterology, approximately 19 million people have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which is caused by stomach content moving upward from the stomach into the esophagus.

The new system involves pinning a small, flexible RFID chip to the esophagus, where it remains until removed by a physician. The chip, about two square centimeters, or a little bigger than a dime, tests for electrical impulses that signal acidic or nonacidic liquids moving through the esophagus. It then transmits data to a wireless sensor worn around the neck.

The device, presented May 23 at the Digestive Disease Week conference in Washington D.C., is still in the test phase. But researchers believe it will be a welcome replacement for current standard procedures, which require placing a flexible catheter tube through the nose and down into the esophagus.

The procedure is very uncomfortable and because of the catheter, you cant eat or drink the way you normally would. The test results can be biased because you change the way you eat, explained Dr. Tang.

No catheter is required with the RFID system, so doctors are hopeful that

Contact: Russell Rian
UT Southwestern Medical Center

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