Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a severe form of acid reflux, is a common disorder that occurs when stomach contents flow backwards into the esophagus. It is caused by a malfunctioning valve between the esophagus and the stomach.
Classic symptoms of GERD include frequent, painful heartburn and acid, or food, regurgitation. Painful swallowing, chronic coughing and hoarseness are other symptoms. Left untreated, this condition can damage the esophagus and lead to esophageal cancer.
For many patients with severe acid reflux, medication and lifestyle changes do not provide relief. Now, a new minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery, using the LINX® device, is giving these sufferers a new lease on life.
Jorge Leiva, MD, a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons who is affiliated with Memorial Hermann Greater Heights Hospital, believes the LINX device is fast becoming the new standard of care for patients with GERD.
During magnetic esophageal sphincter augmentation surgery, a quarter-sized ring, composed of magnetic beads, is implanted around the bottom of the esophagus to prevent the valve leading into the stomach from opening. Although the beads in this LINX device are interlinked by titanium wires, each bead can move and expand independently. This allows food to pass to the stomach followed by the valve snapping closed to prevent stomach contents from refluxing into the esophagus, airways and mouth.
“My patients have had total relief of reflux and regurgitation after implanting the LINX device,” says Dr. Leiva. “Instead of creating a barrier to the valve between the esophagus and stomach, as occurs in the other procedures, the LINX creates a dynamic process that allows the valve to open and close as needed.”
Eating the Foods They Love
Other procedures such as the Nissen fundoplication have been the gold standard in surgical treatment of GERD since gaining popularity in the 1950s. However, it can result in bloating and an inability to belch or vomit.
In contrast, the LINX device allows patients to belch and vomit, and swallowing issues last only a few weeks as new tissue forms a capsule around the ring and throat swelling subsides. Also, patients can immediately eat a regular diet after surgery, versus the two-week liquid diet required with a fundoplication.
“Overall, patients are able to eat whatever they want after the LINX procedure, as long as the amounts are reasonable,” explains Dr. Leiva.
In addition to evaluating patients for good esophageal function, Dr. Leiva says hiatal hernias should always be repaired when the LINX device is implanted. “It’s a two-valve mechanism, so pulling the stomach back into place from the esophagus helps ensure successful outcomes.”
Home the Day of Surgery
Magnetic esophageal sphincter augmentation surgery to implant the LINX device generally takes 45 to 60 minutes. Increasing numbers of insurance providers are covering this procedure.
Dr. Leiva, who is among a select group of surgeons trained in the LINX device procedure, performs the minimally invasive surgery on an outpatient basis at Memorial Hermann Greater Heights. Patients resume most activities the next day, but Dr. Leiva prefers they take one to two weeks off from work.
For a physician referral to evaluate symptoms of acid reflux or GERD,