St. John Hospital is among the first in the state and the only site in southeast Michigan to offer a new alternative treatment for patients with acid reflux disease.
Whether you call it heartburn, acid reflux, or GERD, gastroesophageal reflux disease can spell misery for millions of adults in the U.S. GERD is caused by a weak muscle in the esophagus called the lower esophageal sphincter that allows acid and bile to splash up from the stomach into the esophagus, often causing injury to the lining of the esophagus and symptoms like heartburn, chest pain, regurgitation, sore throat, and cough.
GERD can lead to serious complications like stricture, Barrett's esophagus, and esophageal cancer. Adenocarcinoma, a type of esophageal cancer, increased over 600 percent between 1973 and 2006. GERD can cause daily pain, lead to poor sleep, affect food tolerance, and limit daily activities.
The new treatment, known as the LINX System, is a FDA-approved device that has shown very positive results in a five-year study published by the New England Journal of Medicine. The LINX System is a small, flexible band of magnets enclosed in titanium beads. The magnetic attraction between the beads helps keep a weak esophageal sphincter closed to prevent reflux. The LINX System is implanted around the weak sphincter just above the stomach in a minimally invasive procedure that typically takes less than one hour.
"This newest procedure for managing reflux is for select patients who are looking for a minimally invasive procedure that lets them go on a regular diet immediately after the procedure," said Abdelkader Hawasli, M.D., a St John Hospital surgeon who is considered a pioneer in minimally invasive procedures. "Additionally, patients using the Linx procedure have no problems with belching which is a common side effect of fundoplication surgery."
GERD patients have a few treatment alternatives. The first line of defense are usually acid suppression drugs, such as Prevacid®, Nexium®, and Prilosec®, which can lower gastric acid production and relieve symptoms. Some patients opt for endoscopic procedures in which a tube is inserted down the throat and the damaged cells are surgically removed. For those with severe disease, an invasive procedure called a Nissen Fundoplication, which is a radical gastic ulceration that wraps the stomach around the esophagus.
The clinic study that appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine assessed 100 patients with chronic GERD before and after treatment with the LINX System. Of those patients:
- 92 percent of patients achieved freedom from daily GERD medication
- 100 percent of patients achieved significant symptom improvement
- 99 percent of patients eliminated severe regurgitation
- 99 percent of patients eliminated daily sleep disruption due to heartburn
- 94 percent of patients were satisfied with their overall condition
After they have the procedure, patients stay in the hospital for one day, to ensure that they are eating well. Immediately after the procedure, patients are encouraged to go back to a normal diet to exercise the device and ensure long-term success. They gradually wean off their acid-reducing medications. In approximately three weeks patients have a bit of discomfort swallowing as the esophagus scars and begins to heal and tighten up the valve.
St. John Providence Health System