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A patient suffering with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) normally experiences frequent heartburn, regurgitation and/or nausea in the mid-chest region. This can cause severe discomfort and negatively impact the patient's quality of daily life.
If you are a reflux patient, 21 years of age or older, who still experiences significant GERD-related symptoms despite taking medication(s), you may be interested in the LINX® Reflux Management System.
LINX provides an option for patients who are taking acid-suppressing drugs (i.e. Prevacid®, Nexium®, Prilosec®, etc.) but are not getting their desired results. These types of medications help control acid build-up, but they cannot repair the underlying problem.
What is LINX?
The LINX Reflux Management System (developed by Torax Medical, Inc.) is a permanent, drug-free treatment for GERD that consists of a small band of magnetized titanium beads wrapped around the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) located at the base of the esophagus. This band helps prevent gastric acids from pushing back up into the esophagus from the stomach, yet also safely allows the LES to open when required to allow for easy swallowing.
When a person with the LINX system installed swallows, the motion of food or drink passing through the lower esophagus overcomes the magnetic attraction between the beads permitting the contents to pass through the LES into the stomach. When the stomach reacts and reflux tries to escape up the esophagus (which would then result in heartburn), the magnetic beads keep the acid down in the same manner as a normally functioning LES.
This procedure can help patients return to a normal lifestyle unaffected by their GERD.
The patient is sedated using anesthesia and the LINX device is implanted around the lower esophageal sphincter using a common surgical technique known as laparoscopy, a minimally invasive surgery that allows operations within the abdomen area through a series of small incisions. In order to select the right size for the LINX device, the esophagus must first be measured. This is achieved by placing a necklace-like tool around the esophageal tube at the LES and measuring the diameter to get the best fit. The measurement necklace is then removed and the LINX device implanted, making sure the ends of the band are aligned and securely linked.
In most cases, patients can return home the same day as the procedure.
Benefits for Patients
- Reduction in acid exposure to the esophagus
- Improvement in heartburn and regurgitation symptoms
- Reduction or elimination of GERD medications
- Less invasive surgery compared to the standard surgical treatment for GERD
- Ability to resume a normal diet following surgery
- Discharge the same day or the next day after surgery
- Minimal side effects, such as being unable to belch or vomit
As can be expected, the LINX procedure comes with the same risks (i.e. bleeding, infection, difficulty with anesthesia, etc.) as many other surgical procedures. The physician should explain all possible risks associated with this procedure during the consultation visit. If the patient does end up experiencing an adverse response to the device, it can be removed.
Also, after having the LINX procedure, patients will be unable to get an MRI performed unless a special designated MRI is used. In the past, MRIs could not be done at all on LINX patients, but the new LINX devices can be used with some MRI machines.
Do I Qualify?
You may be a candidate for the LINX procedure if:
- Medication has not been successful treating your GERD symptoms
- Lifestyle and diet changes have not provided you much relief
- Persistent symptoms severely affect your quality of life
- You would prefer to stop taking medication(s) to manage your gastric reflux
Frequently Asked Questions
- How long does the LINX procedure take to perform?
- On average, the procedure lasts about one hour, but can vary depending on the condition of the patient.
- Will the device ever have to be removed?
- The intention for LINX is that it is a permanent solution for GERD. However, at this time, 10-year studies are not available and the answer is unknown. If the device does need to be removed at a later date, it can be done with a similar surgical procedure.
- Will I still have to take any heartburn medication(s)?
- Clinical trials have shown that only about 10% of all patients resume taking any heartburn medicines in long-term follow-up.
- Will my insurance company pay for LINX?
- This will be determined on a case-by-case basis.
- Can I still go through security at an airport?
- Just like having a pacemaker or artificial hip, you will be given a card that shows you have a medically implanted device.