CAMC is the first in southern West Virginia to offer a new, FDA-approved treatment for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) called the LINX Reflux Management System. The device is implanted during a laparoscopic (minimally-invasive) surgery that typically takes less than one hour, offering patients a quicker recovery, immediate relief from reflux, and a faster return to a normal diet compared to other procedures.
Reflux is caused by a weak muscle in the esophagus called the Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES). The LES is your body's reflux barrier, which normally acts like a one-way valve, allowing food and liquid to pass into the stomach but preventing stomach contents from flowing back into the esophagus. In people with reflux, the barrier doesn't close completely, allowing harmful acid and bile to flow back into the esophagus, resulting in both pain and injury to the esophageal lining.
LINX is a small, flexible ring of titanium bead magnets about the size of a quarter that is placed around the esophagus just above the stomach. The magnetic attraction between the beads helps keep the LES closed to prevent reflux. When you swallow, the force breaks the magnetic bond, allowing food and liquid to pass normally into the stomach. The magnetic attraction recloses the LES immediately after swallowing, restoring the barrier.
"This procedure is going to be very effective for people who suffer from chronic reflux," said Samuel Rossi, MD, general and bariatric surgeon at the CAMC Weight Loss Center. "Studies have shown that it's a better option for acid reflux versus medical therapy. It's not as invasive as traditional surgeries, it's reversible, and you can return to normal activities much sooner than traditional surgery."
Symptoms of GERD include heartburn and regurgitation, often associated with chronic sleep disruption, and may also include persistent cough, excessive throat clearing, hoarseness and a feeling of a "lump" in the throat. People often try to treat their symptoms with over-the-counter and prescription medications as well as diet modification. But anti-reflux medications may not be enough to cure the symptoms, and for patients who don't find relief with traditional treatment methods, surgery may be recommended.
Nissen fundoplication is the traditional surgical approach that reconstructs a new reflux barrier using a portion of the patient's stomach, which is wrapped around the lower portion of the esophagus, but the procedure changes the anatomical structures of the stomach.
"Some people do well with it, some not as well, and it may require a very complicated surgical procedure to 'unwrap' or address the problems from Nissen fundoplication," said Robert Shin, MD, general and bariatric surgeon at the CAMC Weight Loss Center.
LINX is a safer, less invasive alternative that does not involve cutting the stomach or changing the esophagus - it simply reinforces the natural LES mechanism that is already in your body.
LINX is performed laparoscopically through four small incisions in the abdomen. Once implanted, it starts working immediately. The outpatient procedure is performed under general anesthesia and takes less than one hour. Patients usually go home within two to three hours after the surgery and are able to resume a normal diet and activities in less than a week. Side effects are minimal, and the LINX device does not interfere with other bodily functions such as belching or vomiting.
"Long term this is going to be a more effective treatment for chronic reflux than traditional medical therapy," Rossi added.
LINX is only available at select comprehensive medical centers that specialize in advanced laparoscopic surgery.
"We have spent many years performing the Nissen fundoplication surgery at CAMC, and now with the LINX option, we can help patients determine which procedure is right for them," Rossi said.
You may be a candidate for LINX if:
When left untreated, GERD could lead to serious complications like narrowing of the opening of the esophagus, Barrett's esophagus and esophageal cancer.
"We have to understand why we are treating this disease to start with," Shin said. "One of the most rapidly growing cancers in our society is esophageal cancer, and the incidence of reflux problems has increased dramatically in the last 20 to 30 years. To prevent the possible risk of cancer and side effects of medications, which also can be very costly, this operation is attractive. It can dramatically enhance the quality of your life, not just get rid of your reflux problems."
To learn if you may be a candidate for LINX, call the CAMC Weight Loss Center at (304) 388-4965.