WHEN SHOULD I WORRY ABOUT...

Getting Relief From Heartburn

Sep. 19, 2019

Approximately 20% of Americans suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), sometimes called heartburn, which is an often-painful condition that occurs when stomach acid flows up into the esophagus (the tube connecting the mouth and stomach).

Most cases of GERD can be resolved with lifestyle changes, such as losing weight and avoiding coffee and alcohol. Medications that reduce or block acid production can also be very effective.

For the most severe cases that don’t respond to these treatments, Houston Methodist offers the LINX Reflux Management System, a minimally invasive procedure.

“The majority of patients I see will get better with lifestyle changes and medication,” says Dr. Jorge Leiva, general surgeon at Houston Methodist. “Yet, out of the 21 million Americans who take medication for GERD, nearly 40% still have symptoms — those are the ones who will benefit from surgical intervention.”

LINX Reflux Management System: a minimally invasive GERD treatment option

For a long time, GERD sufferers who didn’t find relief from lifestyle changes or medication had only one other option: fundoplication, in which surgeons wrap the top half of the stomach partially or fully around the esophagus to block acid reflux. This procedure usually takes an hour and requires an overnight stay in the hospital.

With LINX, these patients now have an alternative. During this minimally invasive outpatient procedure, the surgeon implants a ring of tiny magnetic beads between the stomach and the bottom of the esophagus. This magnetic “bracelet” allows patients to eat and drink normally. When patients swallow, the bracelet opens to allow food and liquid to pass into the stomach. Once food or liquid passes, the bracelet closes again, preventing stomach contents and acid from backing up into the esophagus.

“We’ve seen very good results with this procedure,” Dr. Leiva says. “Approximately 95% of patients see a complete resolution of GERD and no longer need to take medication, which can often have unpleasant side effects.”

The LINX procedure, done under general anesthesia, takes just under an hour. No surgical modification of the stomach or esophagus is needed. Full recovery from the procedure can take up to two weeks, Dr. Leiva says, but most people recover sooner.

“Recovery times can vary, but the majority of my patients are able to resume their regular diets immediately after surgery and go back to work on day 10,” Dr. Leiva says. “If other therapies have failed, and GERD symptoms are impacting your daily activities or sleep, the LINX procedure should be considered.”