New Surgery Stops Acid Reflux "In Its Tracks"

ThedaCare First to Offer LINX Device that Eliminates Daily Medication

After living with acid reflux for more than six years, Ellen Reyenbeau was tired of taking her daily medication for the symptoms. Her doctor recommended using the LINX Reflux Management System, a new device implanted during laparoscopic surgery that strengthens the muscles at the end of the esophagus, stopping acid reflux. “I took my medication, and it worked most of the time, but I was worried too about the long term effects of taking it. I thought why cover up the problem when I can have it fixed?” said the 48-year-old Little Chute resident.

David Duppler, MD, a surgeon with Fox Valley Surgical Associates at Appleton Medical Center, performed the LINX procedure on Reyenbeau and said it’s designed for patients whose problems with acid reflux are not corrected by medication or lifestyle changes.  ThedaCare surgical partners – Dr. Duppler and his partner, Michael Black, MD, along with Kevin Wasco, MD, and Nikhilesh Sekhar, MD, of Surgical Associates of Neenah at Theda Clark Medical Center – are the only ones in Northeast Wisconsin to offer the LINX procedure.

During acid reflux – which is known medically as gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD acid or bile from the stomach leaks back into the esophagus, causing it become irritated and leading to heartburn and regurgitation. Left unchecked, GERD can cause serious damage to the esophagus. Most of the time, taking medication or changing diet can treat GERD, but Dr. Duppler said when that’s not enough, surgery becomes an option.

Dr. Duppler said LINX corrects GERD by using a small band of interlinked titanium beads with magnetic cores that provide extra strength to a weak lower esophageal sphincter by helping it to close after the patient swallows, preventing the release of acid back into the esophagus.

Before LINX, Dr. Duppler said there were two other surgical options, but the newest procedure uses a device to strengthen the esophagus rather than a part of the patient’s stomach. “It’s minimally invasive and early results are more favorable than the other surgical options,” he said.

Dale Bauman, a 31-year-old Hortonville resident, chose the surgical option so he didn’t need to continue taking daily medication for his GERD. “I’ve had this problem since high school and thought if the surgery can correct it, I would do it,” he said. “It’s worked really well. I’ve been eating normally without any medication and haven’t had any (reflux) problems.”

After surgery, Dr. Duppler said patients do experience some discomfort swallowing for a few weeks as scar tissue grows around the LINX device. After a night in the hospital, he said most patients are back to their normal activities and diet within a day or two.

“I was eating what I normally do the next day,” said Reyenbeau, who was concerned about the effects of taking a daily anti-acid might have on the amount of  calcium in her bones. “The recovery wasn’t bad at all. I would do it again in a heartbeat.”

Since the LINX device utilizes magnets, patients who have the procedure done cannot have MRIs so it’s usually not recommended for patients who need that test to monitor another health issue, Dr. Duppler said.

“As with anything, it is best patients talk with their doctors about their condition, and working together, they can come up with a plan that will work best for them. For acid reflux, that can mean lifestyle and diet changes or maybe medication and if that doesn’t work, the LINX system is a great option,” he said.

ThedaCare™ is a community health system consisting of five hospitals: Appleton Medical Center, Theda Clark Medical Center, New London Family Medical Center, Shawano Medical Center, and Riverside Medical Center in Waupaca. ThedaCare also includes ThedaCare Physicians, ThedaCare Behavioral Health, and ThedaCare at Home. ThedaCare is one of the largest employers in Northeast Wisconsin with more than 6,175 employees. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.