Why should acid reflux NOT be ignored?
Acid reflux is a common problem. Heartburn is most common symptom of acid reflux. Heartburn is burning type of pain behind the breast bone. The pain often radiates up from the tummy to the neck. Another common symptom of acid reflux is bringing up of bitter liquid or food. This is called regurgitation. Also, acid reflux can cause difficulty to swallow, chest pain, chronic cough, asthma and decay of teeth. Overall, acid reflux can reduce well-being and quality of life in many ways. But, the most important harm from acid reflux is the risk for cancer of the oesophagus (the gullet or foodpipe). Untreated acid reflux significantly increases the risk for one type of cancer called adenocarcinoma of the oesophagus. Fortunately, many studies have shown that proper treatment of acid reflux can reduce the risk for cancer.
When should you think of an operation for acid reflux?
Medicine called Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPI) can be very effective to control acid reflux. Commonly used PPI drugs are omeprazole, lansoprazole, pantoprazole and esomeprazole. But, PPIs do not control acid reflux in some people. There are many reasons for poor response to PPIs. In others, PPIs may control acid reflux very well. But, symptoms return if medicines are not taken regularly. Although treatment with PPIs is generally safe, there is some concern about serious side-effects with long-term use of PPIs. An operation can give good relief when PPIs are not effective. Also, an operation can give freedom from chronic PPI treatment.
What are the benefits of the LINX magnetic bead ring for acid reflux?
The conventional operation for acid reflux is called laparoscopic Nissen fundoplication. In this operation, the upper part of stomach is wrapped around the lower end of the oesophagus. This wrap creates a barrier to backflow from the stomach into the oesophagus.
Nissen fundoplication is a safe and effective procedure. But, it does have some really troublesome side-effects. Belching or burping may not be possible after Nissen fundoplication. There can be bloating of the tummy from trapped wind, and excessive flatulence. With time, the effectiveness of the fundoplication can ‘wear off’, and acid reflux can return. Many people have to re-start treatment with PPI drugs. Some might need to have another anti-reflux operation, called revisional surgery.
LINX is a new procedure that can avoid side-effects of the Nissen fundoplication. Like the fundoplication, the LINX procedure is done entirely by keyhole surgery. A special magnetic bracelet is placed around the lower end of the oesophagus. Unlike a fundoplication, the LINX procedure does not require extensive dissection and division of blood vessels. So, there is lower risk of complications. Also, the risk of gas-bloat and inability to belch is significantly lower with LINX than with Nissen fundoplication. As with any new procedure, there is no information on long-terms problems with LINX. But, up to 5 years, LINX seems to give the benefits of fundoplication and avoids several side-effects.