General and bariatric surgeon Christopher Smith, M.D. with Tift Regional Medical Center (TRMC) has recently begun performing a new procedure to assist in reducing the effects acid reflux.
This new procedure is able to provide relief for patients who suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), commonly known as heartburn or acid reflux. The side effects of GERD are caused by a weak muscle in the esophagus (called the esophageal sphincter) that allows acid and bile to splash up from the stomach into the esophagus. This often causes injury to the lining of the esophagus and causes symptoms like heartburn, chest pain, regurgitation, sore throat, or cough. Millions of adults in the U.S. suffer from GERD.
Most GERD sufferers attempt to alleviate the side effects of GERD by taking over the counter or prescription medications, but medications cannot address the underlying issue of the weak esophageal sphincter muscle. The new LINX system offered by Dr. Smith at TRMC is a small, flexible band of magnets enclosed in titanium beads. The beads are connected by titanium wires. The LINX System is implanted around the weak esophageal sphincter, just above the stomach. The magnetic attraction between the beads keeps the weak esophageal sphincter closed to help prevent reflux. Swallowing forces separate the beads temporarily to allow food and liquid to pass into the stomach.
The outpatient procedure itself takes approximately one hour and patients are generally able to go home within one day. The benefits of having the LINX procedure include no alteration to the stomach, reduction of gas and bloating, in addition to preserving the ability to belch and vomit if needed. Patients report reduction in acid exposure to the esophagus, improvement in heartburn and regurgitation symptoms, and a reduction or elimination of GERD medications.
The first patient to receive the LINX system at TRMC is Delores Byrd. Byrd is a security officer at TRMC who suffered with GERD for 10 years. “I always had a terrible burning in my throat, along with a bad cough and almost constant heartburn. My quality of life was declining, and the medications I took never solved my problems or made them better,” states Byrd.
A co-worker told Byrd about the LINX procedure and she was referred to Dr. Smith. Byrd says, “I was very hesitant about getting the LINX. Any surgery, no matter how fast, is scary. But, I knew I couldn’t enjoy life with my GERD symptoms that were always present in my life. I could count always on my GERD to interrupt my life, and knew I needed to do something about it.”
Byrd went through the steps it took to become approved for the procedure and became educated on post-operative procedures for eating. After a patient receives the LINX, they are usually able to return to normal eating habits after a week. The first week after the procedure requires warm liquids or soft foods, but most patients return “back to normal” fairly quickly, and most can feel the results immediately.
Byrd says of the recovery period, “Of course there was mild pain associated with this procedure, but I was able to stop taking my usual GERD medications immediately after surgery. I had no idea how much GERD had become a part of my everyday life until it was gone. I can eat whatever I want, whenever I want, and I don’t experience the awful burning I felt before. I had my first piece of pizza in ten years. That may sound like a small victory, but it is one of many since I received the LINX.”
Dr. Chris Smith, the surgeon who performs the procedure at TRMC, a board certified general surgeon and a native of Tifton, has practiced in southwest Georgia since 1983. Dr. Smith is certified to perform the LINX procedure. He was a principal investigator in the clinical trial of the LINX system, and was a co-author of a an article in the February 21, 2013 edition of The New England Journal of Medicine regarding the system.
For more information about the LINX procedure at TRMC, contact Dr. Smith’s office by calling 229-353-2263. Dr. Smith’s office is located on the 2nd floor of the TRMC West Campus at 2225 Highway 41 North in Tifton.