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New magnetic device treats severe reflux

By Dawn Brazell | News Center | April 8, 2013

The magnetic band goes around the esophagus to manage gastrointestinal reflux. MUSC was the first in state to implant the new magnetic device.

Though he’s had to wait until age 75 to enjoy the rich taste of cinnamon rolls and cold milk, it has been worth it.

A boyish grin on his face, Max Inman describes the pleasure of eating foods he hasn’t had since his teenage years when he began experiencing acid reflux problems. He also has been able to get off the heavy doses of acid reflux medications since he opted to try a new procedure that uses a magnetic device to treat severe reflux.

Dr. David Adams 
Dr. David Adams 

Physicians at the Medical University of South Carolina performed the state’s first LINX Reflux Management procedure last year, as one of 25 sites across the country to first introduce the procedure. The device is the first of its kind that can be implanted through a minimally-invasive procedure.

Inman’s surgeon David B. Adams, professor of surgery and head of the Division of Gastrointestinal and Laparoscopic Surgery, said he’s pleased with how well Inman is doing. The LINX device is a unique option for patients with chronic GERD, gastroesophageal reflux disease.

“It’s an ingenious new device that a company in Minneapolis called Torax developed. What it is – is magnetized, titanium beads that make a little necklace, and you put it around the esophagus so that when you swallow, the magnet will open up. You can swallow normally. But when pressure gets high in the stomach and stuff tries to get out of your stomach back into the esophagus, the magnets hold things tight.”

That’s what patients who suffer from this want to hear since untreated, chronic GERD can result in damage to the esophagus including inflammation, ulcers, bleeding, and scarring of the esophageal tissues, and may lead to a higher risk of esophageal cancer.

Adams said this device adds to the treatment options for a common problem across the nation. One in five people suffer from reflux symptoms at least once a week, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Surgical treatment usually is reserved for people who have severe or chronic symptoms that persist despite making lifestyle and dietary changes.  Medications fail to help some of these patients with severe reflux. Adams said there are half a million Americans who have esophageal reflux disease, and he estimates 40 percent of them are not well managed on medicine and would be candidates for other treatments.

The LINX device is flexible, which allows patients to belch and vomit, things that are often not possible for patients who have had Nissen fundoplication, the traditional surgical treatment for GERD that involves wrapping the upper portion of the stomach around the lowest portion of the esophagus. The LINX system avoids some of the side effects of the Nissen fundoplication such as bloating and trouble swallowing some foods.

"LINX can be a good option for some patients, because it's a less invasive procedure and is tolerated really well. Patients can usually go home the same day or next day and return to a normal diet immediately," Adams said. "And if necessary, the device is removable."
Surgeons implant the LINX device using a minimally-invasive technique that involves small incisions in the abdominal wall to access the area around the esophagus where the device is implanted. The procedure is typically performed in less than an hour.

Max Inman is enjoying a wider variety of foods since he had the LINX device implanted. 

Inman said he’s glad he opted to try the LINX device. He lost weight post-operatively as was expected, but gradually returned to a normal appetite. He used to suffer from a persistent cough and dry mouth and was on high doses of anti-acids he was taking four times a day. The doses were so high, he couldn’t digest certain foods, such as milk, very well, he said. More than six months out, he said he’s not taking any medications and he has no heartburn.

His wife, Peg, said she’s seen a change in his eating habits and enjoys preparing a larger variety of food now. “It’s wonderful and his demeanor is better,” she said. “He and I are both totally overwhelmed by this LINX surgery, and we’re grateful it was available at MUSC.”

Inman said no spicy food is safe around him anymore. “The magnets are working.”

Adams is glad to hear it.

“One of the great joys of practicing at the Medical University is we get to have a facility and support system that we can introduce new ways of taking care of people. It’s a great collaboration among gastroenterologists, surgeons and all the people who work at this hospital,” Adams said. “We couldn’t introduce this if we didn’t have a team interested in innovative technology and measures what we can do to change what’s possible.”



Related Stories >>

NEJM publishes clinical study of minimally-invasive device for reflux disease

Resources >>

Dr. David Adams: Department of Surgery


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