New surgery in fight against reflux for patients whose medication no longer works

For years, Khalifa Majed’s severe reflux prevented him from sleeping at night and, because of his disease, he couldn’t even drink coffee to help him get through the day.  He was taking medication for gastroesphogeal reflux disease (GERD), and when it stopped working, he decided to try something new.

Dr. Pat Reardon, surgical director of the Reflux Center at The Methodist Hospital in Houston, performed a new minimally-invasive outpatient surgery that ended years of severe discomfort in a matter of hours.

“I literally felt 100 percent better as soon as I got home,” Majed said. “I haven’t had a reoccurrence of reflux symptoms since the surgery and it’s been more than a month.”

GERD is a chronic, progressive disease that affects millions of people. It results when a bad valve at the lower end of the esophagus gets pulled open too easily from the pressure down below the stomach. The opening of the valve allows the contents of the stomach to wash back into the esophagus causing heartburn, regurgitation, loss of sleep and, in some cases, dietary restrictions.

“Many patients with GERD take medications and find that their symptoms are much improved,” Reardon said.  “However, many still have a problem with regurgitation.”

The new LINX® Reflux Management System from Torax Medical was recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to combat GERD. The system, comprised of a small implant made up of intertwined titanium beads with magnetic cores, is designed to prevent the bad valve at the end of the esophagus from opening. The magnetic attraction between the beads allows the food to go by when you eat. The magnets then snap back into place to prevent the valve from being pulled open from below by the stomach.

A recent five-year clinical trial looked at patients who had GERD for at least 10 years and who had been taking medication for at least five years. The findings, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed 100 percent of the patients were relieved of regurgitation and 93 percent of patients reported a significant decrease in their need for medication.

“This is an excellent alternative for patients whose medication has stopped working and who are not candidates for a bigger operation,” said Reardon, the only surgeon in the Houston area performing this procedure. “The LINX is a much smaller operation and may be ideal to ease the pain of these patients who are on an island between medication and major surgery.

For Majed, this system came along at just the right time.

“I can now have a cup of coffee before I start my busy day at work. This is something that was impossible without pain just a few weeks ago,” Majed said. “I feel like I have been given my life back and that I am a brand new man.”