New Device Treats Cause of Reflux Disease, Not Just Symptoms

In a first for Washington, D.C., patients with painful and potentially dangerous acid reflux now have a new surgical option that treats the cause of the problem at its source, not just the symptoms.

November 24, 2014

LINX Implanted in the Esophagus Stops Reflux, Prevents Barrett's Esophagus, a Cause of Esophageal Cancer

(November 24, 2014) In a first for Washington, D.C., patients with painful and potentially dangerous acid reflux now have a new surgical option that treats the cause of the problem at its source, not just the symptoms.

"What happens in people with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is the sphincter muscle between the esophagus and the stomach that is supposed to keep food and digestive acids in your stomach, opens when it's not supposed to," said Patrick Jackson, MD, gastrointestinal surgeon at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. "When that muscle opens, acids in the stomach are allowed to flow back up into the esophagus. The acid causes intense heartburn and can lead to Barrett's esophagus, a known cause of esophageal cancer."

Dr. Jackson is the first surgeon in Washington DC to start implanting a device called the LINX Reflux Management System to keep food and stomach acids where they belong.

"LINX works in a simple and elegant way that works with the body to fix a complex problem that's very common in people," said Dr. Jackson. "The LINX device is a ring of small magnetic discs strung on a titanium wire that forms a ring about two inches in diameter. Once surgically installed around the esophagus, it allows food to pass through the esophagus and into the stomach but won't let food or acids come back up."

The outpatient procedure takes about 90 minutes and is performed under general anesthesia. Dr. Jackson tailors the size of the ring of magnetic beads based on the size of each patient's esophagus.

After the procedure, Dr. Jackson says he encourages patients to eat normally right away. "It's important to get the esophagus moving and working soon after surgery. The tissue of the esophagus will scar around the LINX and secure it into place. And because we're treating the mechanical problem with the esophageal sphincter itself, patients no longer need the medications they had been taking for heartburn."

According to Dr. Jackson, good candidates for LINX are those whose heartburn has responded to proton pump inhibiting (PPI) drugs like Nexium, Protonix or Prilosec.

"Those we do not recommend for the procedure are patients with a hiatal hernia larger than three centimeters, people who need regular MRIs because the device is made of metal and those with a history of stroke or neurological problems. Patients with brain cancer are also not candidates for LINX, said Dr. Jackson."

LINX is an alternative to standard surgery for severe GERD called Nissen Fundoplication. "There are side effects to the Nissen like trouble with swallowing and the inability to vomit," said Dr. Jackson. "The LINX has the same rate of effectiveness without the downsides of the Nissen. The LINX procedure is reversible so a patient can always go back and have a Nissen if they want to."

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