For the 1 in 10 Americans grappling with heartburn at least once a month, each meal poses a new threat. With your “throat on fire,” sleep is fitful, resulting in miserable mornings, a shorter fuse, and less productive workdays.
In the worst case scenarios, some reflux sufferers even face trouble with coughing and choking; others experience changes in their esophageal lining, a condition called Barrett’s that can up one’s risk for esophageal cancer.
Fortunately, there’s new hope for people plagued by heartburn: Just last week, we at URMC announced that we’ll be one of 13 U.S. surgery sites to offer the LINX™ Reflux Management System, a new implantable magnetic “ring” that promises relief to the estimated 25 million American adults who suffer daily heartburn. The device won FDA approval in late March.
Chronic heartburn (a.k.a., gastroesophogeal reflux disease, or GERD) occurs when the stomach’s acidic juices backflow into the esophagus, rousing an uncomfortable burning sensation just below the breast bone. Though a round muscle, or sphincter, usually tightens to clamp off this backsplash, this natural “plumbing” is faulty in some people: The seal is weak, or the sphincter relaxes when it shouldn’t.
The LINX device – a nickel-sized loop of magnetic beads – can be inserted through tiny incisions in less than an hour. The beads separate slightly to allow food and drink to pass down through the esophagus, then compress back together, reinforcing weak esophageal muscles and limiting acidic backwash from the stomach (and beyond!).
To learn more the device and its power to help, hear what esophageal surgeon Dr. Jeff Peters and Rochester-area patient Mike Gerlach (who’s been living with the implantable ring for more than two years) have to say.
Peters and with thoracic surgeon Dr. Thomas Watson, M.D., anticipate installing as many as 30 to 40 new devices in the first year, drawing patients from across New York, Ohio, Massachusetts, and Vermont. The next-nearest device implantation site is the University of Pittsburgh.
Patients interested in being screened for the device can self-refer (call 585-275-2725) or be recommended by their primary care provider or GI specialist. Patients will be asked to complete an initial screening, followed by pH, motility, and other GI function testing, before being declared eligible candidates. Current procedures require patients to be admitted to the hospital for a day or two, but in the coming years, Peters hopes to offer the implant as an outpatient procedure.
* Of note, Peters has served as a consultant to the device’s parent company, TORAX Medical, and received nominal compensation for sharing his clinical expertise at meetings over the past three years.