LINX Spells Relief for Heartburn
In the LINX surgery, a bracelet of magnetic beads is placed around the lower esophagus to protect the patient from reflux. Photo: TORAX MEDICAL, INC.
Glenn Dysart, 43, of Alexandria had spent nearly half his life living with the misery of gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. He’s far from alone; one in five American adults suffer from GERD, which is the result of a weak muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter. This weakness allows stomach acids and bile to splash into the esophagus and throat. The acids can damage the linings of the esophagus and cause heartburn, chest pain, regurgitation, sore throat and frequent coughing. Left untreated, it can lead to serious complications, including esophageal cancer.
Medications can be effective for managing many of the symptoms, but GERD is a progressive disease and the medications don’t solve the problem of the weakened muscle. For Dysart, the daily pill regimen had become expensive and increasingly ineffective. After dinner, he had to wait three and one-half hours before he could go to bed, and even then, he had to sleep with his bed elevated to prevent acid reflux. He missed eating his favorite foods and he was concerned about the long-term side effects of the medications.
“I’d had enough of being on those pills,” Dysart said. “I wanted to see if there were other treatment options.”
Dysart’s doctor referred him to G. Kevin Gillian, MD, FACS, Director of the Hernia & Heartburn Institute. Dr. Gillian explained that medication may change the acidity of the fluid in the stomach, but it does little to prevent it from washing back into the esophagus and throat. Gastric fluid is quite irritating to the lining of the esophagus and particularly to the throat and voice box. Consequently, medications “take the edge off” the symptoms, but 30 to 40 percent of GERD patients taking medication are unhappy with their quality of life.
“With medication, they will continue to regurgitate fluid just as frequently as before medication,” Dr. Gillian said. “It just doesn’t burn as badly because you’re taking the acid out.”
When medication does not work, the new LINX® surgery can be extremely effective in treating GERD. In a five-year clinical study, 100 percent of patients eliminated severe regurgitation, 99 percent eliminated daily sleep disruption from heartburn, 92 percent were able to stop taking daily GERD medication and 91 percent saw significant improvement in their symptoms.
Dr. Gillian is the first and only physician in Northern Virginia and Washington, DC performing the LINX surgery. A fellowshiptrained laparoscopic surgeon, Dr. Gillian is highly experienced in performing all types of reflux surgery, having performed more than 1000 procedures since 1998. He is a member of the Virginia Hospital Center Physician Group.
“Patients literally hug me at their first postop appointment,” Dr. Gillian said. “It’s a mixture of excitement and relief — and frustration that no one told them before about this option.”
In the LINX surgery, a bracelet of magnetic beads is placed around the lower esophagus to protect the patient from reflux. The bracelet opens when food or liquid comes through the esophagus. Because the beads are magnets, they then close when the food passes, so the acids never reach the esophagus. The magnetic beads are made from titanium and will be just as strong 10 to 20 years after the surgery.
The LINX surgery is minimally invasive, with just five tiny incisions, and takes less than an hour. Because of the small size of the incisions, no wound care is necessary — patients can shower the next day — and generally return to work in three days. Dysart gave a presentation to his customers just two days after surgery.
Since the surgery, Dysart said that the quality of his life has changed dramatically.
“I can eat and drink what I want,” he said. “It’s that much of an improvement. And I don’t have to worry about not eating before going to bed.”
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To schedule an appointment with Dr. G. Kevin Gillian, call 703.372.2280.