LAWTON, OK (KSWO)- A new surgical device for treating chronic reflux is now available in Southwest Oklahoma. GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, also known as acid reflux, is one of the most common digestive disorders in the country. Many people can control symptoms with dietary changes or medication, but when those fail, a new surgical alternative called LINX may be able to help.
Acid reflux happens when acid from the stomach moves up into the esophagus through the lower esophageal sphincter or L-E-S.
"Gastroesophageal reflux, it's symptoms like heartburn, regurgitation, even food getting stuck. Dysphasia is an extremely common disease process in this country," said Dr. Michael Sawyer, a CCMH Bariatric General Surgeon.
The LINX System is a small implant comprised of interlinked titanium beads with magnetic cores placed around the upper esophagus.
"What the magnets do is they exert just enough pressure on there to keep the materials from coming back up. But when you eat, the bond between the magnets is not so strong that it keeps food from getting down. It's a really brilliant design. Such that when you swallow food, as the food goes down past those magnets, it temporarily breaks the magnetic bond. Then once the food goes back down, the magnets come back together."
Dr. Michael Sawyer, a bariatric general surgeon for Comanche County Memorial Hospital, says the LINX procedure has fewer side effects than that of the previous procedures used for acid reflux.
"The other thing that's nice about it, is you don't have to rearrange someone's anatomy and take down all these attachments to the stomach. Like organs to the spleen, and things like that. And wrap that around the esophagus."
The procedure is done laparoscopically, meaning only five small incisions are made. It's an outpatient procedure, and recovery time is minimal, unlike other acid reflux procedures.
"Usually if you have a fundoplication, you're kept on soft foods or pureed foods at first. We want you to eat right away after this one. Because what it seems to do, is it seems to exercise that system. Stretching the magnets out back and forth is better than letting them sit in place for a long time."
A lot of patients can manage acid reflux with medications, but in some cases, medication doesn't work. Dr. Sawyer says when those medications were introduced, they were not meant for long term use.
"There's a lot of evidence coming out that being on these medications for a long time may be associated with some not so good effects...ranging from dementia to kidney damage, to heart disease, to bone loss, especially in women... But now we have millions of patients in this country who have been living on them for 10, 15 or 20 years or more."
Dr. Sawyer says acid reflux can damage your esophagus to a point where your chances of esophageal cancer increases.
If you would like to learn more about the LINX system and procedure, you can call the Outpatient Center at 580-510-7042 to schedule a consultation.
In other health news, Comanche County Memorial Hospital is providing free stroke risk assessments on May 18th and 19th from 8 in the morning until 3. They're also offering a $20 blood draw for a lipid panel. For the best results, they ask that you don't eat or drink for at least 10 hours prior to.
On May 19th at 11:30 there is a stroke awareness lunch and learn featuring Dr. Zachary Berry. The cost is $5. To make an appointment for the blood draw, or to reserve your spot for the lunch and learn you can call 580-585-5406.