New Surgery Stops Acid Reflux In Its Tracks

ThedaCare Offers LINX Device that Eliminates Daily Medication

After living with severe acid reflux for more than five years that persisted despite prescription medication, Rebecca Van Elsen was looking for relief. She found it with the LINX Reflux Management System, a new device implanted during a minimally invasive surgery at ThedaCare that strengthens the muscles at the end of the esophagus, stopping acid reflux.

“Since the surgery, I haven’t had any problems at all with acid reflux,” said Van Elsen, a 46-year-old Greenleaf resident. “My acid reflux was so bad that even prescription medication didn’t help, but this did. I feel much better.”

David Duppler, MD, a surgeon with Fox Valley Surgical Associates at Appleton Medical Center, performed the LINX laparoscopic procedure on Van Elsen and said it’s designed for patients whose problems with acid reflux are not corrected by medication or lifestyle changes.  In addition to Dr. Duppler, Michael Black, MD, of Fox Valley Surgical Associates and Kevin Wasco, MD, of Surgical Associates of Neenah at Theda Clark Medical Center in Neenah perform the surgery.  The trio began performing LINX operations last year and were the first ones in Northeast Wisconsin to offer the surgery.

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 small flexible band of interlinked titanium beads with magnetic cores 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 other surgical options,” he said.

After surgery, Dr. Duppler said patients 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.

Van Elsen had a few problems with swallowing some foods, like chicken and pasta, but she learned to take smaller bites and thoroughly chew before swallowing. “It hasn’t been a big deal,” she said.

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 for some patients,” he said.

ThedaCare™ is a community health system consisting of seven hospitals: Appleton Medical Center, Theda Clark Medical Center, ThedaCare Medical Center-New London, Shawano Medical Center, Riverside Medical Center in Waupaca, Berlin Memorial Hospital, and Wild Rose Community Memorial Hospital. 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.