Frustrated with Reflux? Surgeons discuss a new longer-lasting option.
Coffee and pizza are two favorite foods that people with acid reflux have trouble with – and, in the past decade, we've seen a number of treatments emerge for addressing it. Acid reflux is a rising concern in America, and the choices for treating it are also growing. While many people reach for over-the-counter oral medications that reduce their stomach acidity, Dr. Jared Brooks feels strongly that there's another option to be considered.
"There's a procedure that can offer sustained control, rather than continually taking proton pump inhibitors, what most of the drugstore medications are called. This minimally-invasive procedure is called LINX and it helps keep the acid from creeping up the esophagus by keeping it closed with a band of magnetic beads," he said.
Acid reflux affects people of all ages, from younger people in their 20s to people in their 70s. PPIs (such as Prilosec®, Nexium® or Zantac®) mask the symptoms by reducing the acidic burn with alkaline. Some of the risks include kidney disease, stomach infections, heart disease, pneumonia, bone fractures and dementia. Because of increased awareness of the risks of long term use, patients and their doctors are looking for alternatives.
The LINX procedure was approved in 2012 by the FDA, and now has 10 years of data to support the claims that it's effective in reducing acid reflux and GERD symptoms. It works by keeping the bottom of the esophagus closed, but unlike past surgical solutions, it allows for all the regular bodily functions to continue as normal. It's less invasive then the more common Nissen fundoplication surgery and is also reversible, which the Nissen is not.
"This is good for people with poorly controlled reflux and those with breakthrough nighttime symptoms – many of whom have to sleep propped up to avoid symptoms. People don't realize that surgery can be less traumatic and more convenient than continued medication usage when the positive results are lasting," said Dr. Brooks.
Dr. Brooks, who practices at Sentara Surgery Specialists in Norfolk, along with colleague Dr. Bethany Tan, are the first surgeons in Hampton Roads to be trained and able to offer the LINX procedure. Dr. Tan agrees that many of her patients who have tried lifestyle changes, remain frustrated.
"So many patients are taking reflux meds on a daily basis, and still have poor control. With this surgery, they are back to work soon, with good results. Even long term, the studies show that at 5 years out, about 85% have good results and are not having flares or forced to return to OTC options," Tan said.
It's not for everyone, including people with connective tissue disorders, people with a weak esophagus or people who have a Body Mass Index of over 35. But it is an option for people looking for better control of their acid reflux or who want to avoid the risks of prolonged PPI use.
"I want more people to know about this now, because it's important to get people early in the disease state because patients can relieve this, without reflux daily meds and they should know that is an option available, right now," said Brooks. "Too many people let me know that they are having flares of reflux, or that their symptoms are not under control most days – or that they've had to cut their favorite foods out of their diet to try to avoid reflux."
"Some people are much happier after surgery. They are relieved that they don't have to live that way anymore, and they have better control," said Brooks.
The big challenge now, is to let people know that this option exists and it works. Many people have given up eating their favorite foods, like those with red sauce, or anything even mildly spicy. Now, there's hope for another solution with LINX. To find out more, speak with your primary care physician.