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Breakthrough Surgical Treatment Option for Acid Reflux Disease Now Available at Jefferson Hospital

Thursday, September 14, 2017

JEFFERSON HILLS, Pa. – People in the South Hills of Pittsburgh and lower Mon Valley suffering from a common digestive disorder now have a groundbreaking minimally invasive treatment option available to them closer to home. Surgeons at Allegheny Health Network’s (AHN) Jefferson Hospital this summer started offering the novel LINX Management System for patients who have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), better known as acid reflux. Studies have shown that LINX can greatly reduce the symptoms and risks from GERD.

The procedure became the first U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved, non-medical surgical therapy for GERD five years ago. LINX offers an alternative to daily medications for the chronic disease in which acid or other stomach contents back up in the esophagus, the tube connecting the mouth and stomach. GERD is caused by a weak lower esophageal sphincter (LES), a valve-like muscle that regulates the passage of food and liquid from the esophagus into the stomach. 

When gastric juices flow back into the esophagus, it can be severely damaged and lead to a host of unpleasant symptoms for the patient. Heartburn is the most common of these symptoms, along with chest pain, regurgitation, sore throat, and chronic cough. According to the American Gastroenterology Association, it is estimated that more than 60 million Americans experience symptomatic GERD at least once a month, and 15 million suffer from it daily.

“The LINX system is designed to reinforce the lower esophageal sphincter, which acts like a trap door between the esophagus and stomach,” explained Tunc Aksehirli, MD, a Jefferson Hospital general surgeon who performed the first LINX procedure at the hospital. “With a strengthened LES, we can eliminate the reflux. This relatively simple procedure can lead to a dramatic improvement in the patient’s quality of life.”

Similar in appearance to a watch or bracelet, the LINX system consists of a small, flexible band of magnets enclosed in titanium beads that act as a barrier to reflux. During a 30- to 60-minute outpatient laparoscopic procedure, the surgeon places the bracelet around the base of the esophagus. The LINX then expands when food or liquid passes through. After swallowing, the magnetic bond allows the beads to close and prevent gastric juices from refluxing back into the esophagus.

According to Torax Medical, the Minn.-based manufacturer of the LINX system, the surgical procedure has been highly effective. After undergoing LINX, 85 percent of patients were free from dependence on daily reflux medications, 88 percent of patients reported no more heartburn, and 99 percent of patients eliminated regurgitation. 

“We are pleased to be able to provide this proven, effective surgical alternative for patients in our service area who are suffering from GERD,” said Louise Urban, President and CEO, Jefferson Hospital. “We strive to give the people in the Jefferson community the right care they need, in the right place. Adding the LINX procedure to our mix of medical and surgical treatments helps us in fulfilling our mission to keep care in the community.”

Jefferson joins Canonsburg, Forbes, and West Penn as AHN hospitals that offer the LINX procedure. Blair Jobe, MD, Director of the Esophageal and Lung Institute at AHN, played a pioneering role in helping to establish the LINX procedure’s efficacy in clinical trials prior to its FDA approval.

“Effectively treating GERD with a surgical repair of the LES can not only improve patients’ quality of life by eliminating symptoms, but it may also help to prevent or stop serious associated conditions,” said Dr. Jobe, “such as adult-onset asthma, chronic cough, and Barrett’s esophagus, a precancerous condition.”