, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 261-265
Date: 07 Feb 2014

Patient response to marketing minimally invasive surgery for heartburn

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Background: Over 40% of Americans suffer from ``heartburn'' at least once a month. This and other manifestations of gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) are often treated with neglect by both patients and their primary care physicians. Diagnostic evaluation is all too often sought only in late stages of the disease. We studied the response to a media campaign promoting minimally invasive surgery as a cure for longstanding heartburn.

Methods: The information was publicized on 14 TV and six radio stations over 4 weeks. Patients were referred to an 800-number and data on the following topics were obtained using a standardized questionnaire: demographics, reflux symptoms, previous specialist referral, diagnostic evaluation and treatment, insurance information, and reasons for and expectations in calling. All questionnaires were screened for likelihood of GERD (high, medium, low). A return call was placed to triage patients (surgical or medical appointment, information only, no contact).

Results: We received calls from 1,389 potential patients. Based on symptoms, medical therapy, and previous evaluation, 891 (64%) were judged to likely have GERD and assigned high-priority status. Of the patients providing insurance information, 32% were enrolled in an HMO; 29% commercial; 16% Medicare; 14% employer based; and 9% had no insurance. Six hundred ninety-eight high-priority patients were contacted. Of these, 402 (58%) wanted information only; 228 (33%) desired surgical and 68 (%) medical appointments. Two hundred fifteen patients (16% of callers) were seen by a surgical or medical consultant. One hundred thirty-five underwent diagnostic studies, of which 77 (57%) had pathologic esophageal acid exposure. Eighty-three patients have undergone surgery to date—60 laparoscopic and 14 open antireflux procedures; nine had other surgical procedures.

Conclusions: Surprisingly, 64% of patients responding to a marketing campaign for heartburn have typical symptoms of GERD, have consulted one or more physicians and/or received medical treatment. More than half the patients tested (77/135) were found to have a positive 24-h pH study, and 78% (60/77) of these elected antireflux surgery to control their reflux symptoms.

Received: 3 April 1997/Accepted: 10 June 1997