TOWSON, Md. -

For 12 years, Kathy Dickinson lived with the painful symptoms of GERD, which happens when the lower esophageal sphincter weakens and allows food to flow up. For Dickinson, it meant coughing, pain and no sleep.

"It would happen in the morning. It would happen after I ate. It would happen at night. It was, and it just progressively got worse and worse and worse," Dickinson said.

Dr. Mark Noar, of the Endoscopic Microsurgery Associates in Townson, Maryland, told her about a procedure to fix GERD for good. It's called the Stretta procedure.

Patients are sedated while doctors insert a catheter down the throat and deliver radiofrequency energy to stimulate tissue and strengthen muscles.

"The sphincter muscle gets thicker and stronger, so it won’t open as easily," Noar said.

In a recent study, researchers found 72 percent of patients no longer had reflux 10 years after the procedure and 41 percent were off medications.

Bob Davis had the Stretta procedure and is glad he did.

"I reduced my medicine by three pills a day," Davis said.

Dickinson had it too and no longer has the symptoms of GERD.

"It's something that's not a part of my life anymore," she said.

The study also found 85 percent of those with Barrett's esophagus, a pre-cancerous condition that can develop in GERD patients, no longer had the condition 10 years after having the Stretta procedure. None of the patients studied developed esophageal cancer.

Noar said this could mean the procedure protects against cancer, but more research is needed to confirm that finding.

DOWNLOAD and VIEW research summary and an in-depth interview with the doctor