Instant heartburn relief from a quarter-sized device

Chronic acid reflux and heartburn caused by a large hiatal hernia made Debra Fuller’s life miserable for years.

She often felt bloated and uncomfortable and simple acts like bending over caused her reflux to act up.

“I just dealt with it for a long time,” the 57-year-old South Gardiner woman said. “I had a lot of heartburn and probably was taking seven or eight antacids at a time to deal with the symptoms. And that never really helped.”

MaineGeneral surgeon Ian Reight, MD, holds a LINX devise that is used to provide relief to patients with acid refluxFortunately for Fuller, relief finally came in late July – with the LINX® procedure, a new form of antireflux surgery now available to patients thanks to Dr. Ian Reight and his colleagues at MaineGeneral Surgery.

“I had to stay in the hospital overnight after my procedure and when they brought me a regular breakfast the next morning, I was able to eat it and it wasn’t painful,” she said. “I’m now a little more than a month out and I don’t have any problems with reflux. My experience with Dr. Reight and his staff was wonderful!”

What is the LINX® procedure?

LINX® offers immediate relief for patients whose chronic gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can’t be controlled medically, including through the daily use of medications such as proton pump inhibitors.

Unlike other standard surgical treatments, it uses a tiny bracelet of magnetic titanium beads connected by a thin wire – about the size of a quarter – to surround and compress the lower esophageal sphincter, which normally prevents stomach fluids from backing up into the esophagus.

The device’s magnetic beads prevent gastric pressure from opening the muscle but are flexible enough that the force of swallowing allows them to expand as needed to allow normal passage of food into the stomach.

Reight, who has done seven LINX® cases in recent months, said the procedure takes about 30 minutes to complete. All of the cases were done using MaineGeneral’s surgical robot technology.

“Our patients are very happy with the results,” he said, adding that he currently has “another seven cases in the pipeline and I see at least three LINX® consults per clinic now.”

Reight’s colleagues Dr. Nanda Kumar and Dr. Sam Pakraftar are currently training on the procedure and all of the practice’s surgeons eventually will be able to offer it to patients. Reight said the surgical team is thrilled to provide a quick, minimally invasive option for patients whose quality of life has been diminished by acid reflux.

“Reflux affects a large number of people. These people have suffered and, until you fix it, they hadn’t realized just how much,” he said. “They tell me, ‘I can sleep all night and I don’t wake up choking and gasping.’ ‘I can eat things I enjoy and I can bend over and pick up my kids without everything coming up my esophagus.’”

“When we can give that back to somebody so they’re no longer miserable – without having to go somewhere else for their care – we can make their lives so much better,” he added. “I really enjoy seeing the difference it makes in their lives. It’s incredible!"

Reight noted that the LINX® procedure nationally has better outcomes over the long-term than Nissen fundoplication – a laparoscopic or robot-assisted procedure performed for patients with GERD.

“I can do a LINX® procedure in a half hour compared to the hour and 15 minutes it takes to do a Nissen with the robot, and patients don’t reflux afterward and can return to a regular diet right away,” he said. “In terms of recovery, with a Nissen, the patient is staying in the hospital overnight or maybe two nights; with LINX®, if I do the procedure during the day, the patient will go home in the morning – and I think it will become day surgery in the next few months.”

LINX® is something that no one else in the state provides right now,” Reight added, “and I think it’s an example of us being leaders as an organization and leaders as surgeons in providing expanded services to the community.”