Boston – Feb. 20, 2013 – Physicians at Boston Medical Center (BMC) are among the first in the city to offer a new treatment option for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), in which a small implanted device is placed around the esophagus to help support a weak lower esophageal sphincter (LES). BMC is one of only two hospitals in New England currently offering the procedure using the LINX® Reflux Management System, which is available in less than 20 hospitals across the country.
Dr. Hiran Fernando
GERD is a chronic, often progressive disease resulting from a weak LES. The LES is a muscle at the junction of the esophagus and stomach that functions like a valve allowing food and liquid to pass through to the stomach. A weak LES allows acid and bile to reflux from the stomach into the esophagus. Aditionally, as many as 10 percent of GERD patients go on to develop Barrett’s esophagus, a precancerous condition of the esophagus.
The LINX system comprises a small band of interlinked titanium beads with magnetic cores. This system creates a dynaminic spincter in the lower esophagus, that mimicks the true spincter action of the LES. The system is placed around the esophagus just above the stomach using a minimally invasive laparoscopic procedure. The magnetic attraction between the beads will resist opening of the LES to mild elevations in gastric pressures, preventing reflux from the stomach into the esophagus.
“On the other hand the LINX system is designed so that when exposed to the normal forces generated during swallowing, the magnetic bonds will temporarily break, allowing food and liquid to pass in the usual manner from the esophagus into the stomach,” explained Hiran Fernando, MD, Chief, Division of Thoracic Surgery and Director, Center for Minimally Invasive Esophageal Surgery at BMC. “The magnetic attraction of the device will then close the LES immediately after swallowing, restoring the body’s natural barrier to reflux,” he added.According to Fernando, a major advantage of this procedure is the elimination of the symptoms of gas bloat, or difficulty with burping. These symptoms are often seen among patients undergoing the more traditional (fundoplication surgery) surgery for GERD. “However, because of the ability of the magnetic ring to open and close with the LINX system, this problem is eliminated in 99 percent of cases,” said Fernando. Patients undergoing this one-hour procedure normally go home one day after surgery and can resume a normal diet.