Health & Food

LINX magnetic device can control acid reflux

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Acid reflux can truly take the joy out of eating. Often medications just don't work well. But local doctors say using a titanium bracelet may solve the problem once and for all.

For 10 years, 54-year-old Tricia Carr couldn't stomach a typical American breakfast. Her acid reflux was getting worse.

Since medications didn't work for her, she decided to try a minimally invasive surgical procedure using a titanium bracelet.

The implanted magnetic device, marketed as the LINX Reflux Management System by Torax Medical, Inc., was a perfect fit for Tricia.

"It's an easy quick fix and it fixed me 100 percent," said Carr.

Gastrointestinal esophageal reflux disease or GERD is caused by a leaky valve in the esophagus.

Doctors implant a magnetic bracelet at the base of the esophagus. It's flexible enough to allow food to go down but not come back up.

"It's a one-way valve. It opens when you swallow and then closes and prevents anything from coming back up," said Dr. John Lipham of Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach, "so the reason you get reflux is again because of the leaky valve."

Dr. Lipham was a key researcher on the LINX device and consulted with the manufacturer.

"The force of the attraction of these magnetic beads coming together helps keep the weak lower esophageal sphincter or valve closed at the end of the esophagus," said Dr. Lipham.

In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Lipham and his colleagues found quality of life improved substantially for 92 percent of patients.

Within a year, 86 percent no longer needed acid-lowering medicines. The half hour procedure is done through a scope and tiny incisions in the abdomen. Difficulty swallowing is a common side effect but usually eases with time.

"It slows you down eating. Nothing hurts and you don't feel the band," said Carr.

It's been several months since Tricia had her surgery and she says she can eat and drink anything she wants.

The LINX Reflux Management System received FDA approval in 2012.

According to Dr. Lipham, the device costs $5,000 and the operation can run anywhere from $12,000 to $20,000 depending on where you have it done.

However, some insurance companies do cover it for patients with severe reflux who haven't been helped by taking antacids.

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