Atrium Health Navicent Surgery Macon

LINX Procedure

Doctors performing a LINX rocedure

What Is Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a chronic digestive condition when stomach acid or stomach content flows back into the food pipe, or esophagus. This backflow of stomach acid irritates the lining of the esophagus and can be a major annoyance in everyday life.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease is usually caused by a weakening of the lower esophageal sphincter, which holds the top of the stomach closed, keeping stomach acid from escaping. When this sphincter weakens, stomach acid can creep back up into the esophagus, causing damage to the mucosal lining of the esophagus.

How Can Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease Be Treated?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease can be managed somewhat by over-the-counter medication. Depending on the severity of the acid reflux, patients may find the irritation to be a minor annoyance or a constant source of significant pain.

In more severe cases of gastroesophageal reflux disease, doctors may find damage to the esophagus and prescribe stronger medications or a medical procedure.

One of the more common medical procedures employed to treat chronic, severe gastroesophageal reflux disease is the LINX procedure.

What Is the LINX Procedure?

The LINX procedure is a permanent, surgical option for those suffering from chronic, severe gastroesophageal reflux disease. An FDA-approved procedure implants a device laparoscopically. The LINX Reflux Management System is comprised of a flexible bracelet of magnetic titanium beads that support a weakened lower esophageal sphincter, strengthening the ability of the top of the stomach to remain closed.

The LINX procedure is relatively simple. The LINX device is wrapped around the lower esophageal sphincter after being implanted. Then, the magnetic beads help the valve remain closed, preventing the backflow of stomach acid and contents. The force of a swallow can separate the beads somewhat, reopening the valve when necessary.

The LINX procedure is non-invasive and does not involved significantly anatomically altering any part of the body. The LINX device can also be removed with a procedure similar to its implantation if complications arise or the patient decides the device is incompatible with his or her lifestyle for other reasons.

What Does LINX Do?

The LINX procedure strengthens the closing of the top of the stomach with a bracelet of magnetic beads that can expand with the pressure of food. This simple device allows 90% of people who suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease to go off their medications and live a life free of acid reflux.

Although LINX prevents stomach acid and contents from spilling back upward, it does not prevent food from entering the stomach. The magnetic beads allow the bracelet to expand and allow food to expand due to the pressure from the esophagus. A tiny minority of patients may find LINX to be too tight and will require the removal of the device.

LINX is effective in reducing the amount of acid regurgitation in 99% of patients, with only 1% reporting gastroesophageal reflux disease symptoms after five years. There was also no erosion or migrations of the device. Malfunctions were non-existent. Difficulty swallowing was reported by only 6% of patients.

How Do I Prepare for a LINX Procedure?

Prior to undergoing any major medical procedure, a doctor will lay out all the preparatory steps necessary for a successful surgery.

Most doctors will ask patients not to consume food or water for a certain period of time prior to the procedure. Smoking must also be abstained from for at least two weeks before the day of the procedure.

Before a LINX procedure is performed, a doctor must also evaluate a patient's suitability for LINX. This may mean performing an endoscopy, a pH study, or an esophageal manometry to ascertain the severity of the gastroesophageal reflux disease. A general, complete physical examination will also be necessary to determine the overall health of the patient.

Arrangements should be made for the patient returning home. It is best if a family member or friend can be available for several days after the procedure.

How Long Is the Recovery Period after the LINX Procedure?

Recovery after having the LINX procedure performed is short. The entire procedure itself usually takes less than an hour. Patients are allowed to leave the hospital and return home after an overnight stay where they are monitored closely for any complications that may arise.

The patient can consume soft foods after about 48 hours. Before then, liquid foods are administered.

Routine daily activities can be resumed once the patient is off pain medication, which is generally a few days after the procedure.

What Are the Risks of the LINX Procedure?

As with any medical procedure, the LINX procedure comes with a number of risks.

Because the LINX procedure requires surgery and anesthesia, the usual risks are relevant. Infection is always a risk when a foreign object is placed in the body, but the chances are significantly reduced with constant monitoring post-surgery.

Because the LINX device is magnetic, patients will no longer be able to undergo MRI scans or airport security. Patients must be careful not to expose themselves to strong magnetic forces. All patients with LINX devices implanted will receive a card allowing them to bypass airport security.

There is a risk of the device being too tight and causing food to be stuck during eating. This occurs in roughly 3% of patients, and their devices are removed immediately.

Overall, the LINX procedure is incredibly non-invasive and offers a very short recovery time. LINX may be an option for anyone who believes lifestyle changes and medication to be insufficient in combating gastroesophageal reflux disease.