April 12, 2013

Tiny magnetic bracelet treats severe acid reflux

The Associated Press

A tiny magnetic bracelet implanted at the base of the throat is greatly improving life for some people with chronic heartburn who need more help than medicine can give them.

click image to enlarge

Surgeon Dr. John Lipham holds a sample Linx device last week. The small band of magnetic beads is used to treat chronic heartburn.

The Associated Press

It's a novel way to treat severe acid reflux, which plagues millions of Americans and can raise their risk for more serious health problems.

It happens when a weak muscle doesn't close after swallowing as it should. That lets stomach juices splash back into the throat. Drugs such as Nexium and Prilosec reduce acid. But they don't fix the underlying problem, called GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease.

Rodd Foster had it so bad that he used to sleep sitting up to keep his dinner down. Tricia Carr worried that she would develop complications like the one that killed her mother.

Both Californians got help from the new device, approved a year ago by the federal Food and Drug Administration and also sold in Europe.

The treatment was "life-changing," said Foster, a 61-year-old plumbing contractor from Canyon Country, Calif. "It's been 30 years since I've been able to eat normally and now I can eat anything anytime."

The Linx device, made by Torax Medical Inc., of St. Paul, Minn., is a ring of titanium beads with magnets inside. Doctors place it around the weak muscle at the base of the esophagus in a half-hour operation using a scope and "keyhole" incisions in the belly. The ring reinforces the weak muscle to keep it closed, yet is flexible and expands to let food pass when someone swallows. The ring comes in multiple sizes; it is about a half-inch in diameter and expands to about 1.5 inches. People don't feel it once it is implanted.

The device costs $5,000; the operation can run $12,000 to $20,000 depending on hospital charges.

"It is a clever device," said another doctor who has used it -- Dr. Donald Castell, a gastroenterologist at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. The magnets "just bolster a little bit the pressure that is normally there" and help seal off the stomach juices, he said.

 

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors




Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)