BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A medical procedure now offered in Baton Rouge can instantly relieve symptoms of even the most severe cases of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), also known as acid reflux.
For years, Emily Loudon suffered from bouts of bronchitis, sore throat and hoarseness. She eventually learned it was all caused by acid reflux as a result of a hiatal hernia – when the stomach moves up into the chest through the opening in the diaphragm.
Loudon's symptoms got so bad that she eventually put cinder blocks under the front end of her bed, so she could sleep in an upright position. Lying flat caused too many problems.
"A lot of times in the morning I would awaken with sore throat, depending on which side I slept," she said. "Especially when I traveled and was away from my bed."
Leery of her acid reflux medications known to cause bone weakness, Laudon's primary care doctor referred her to surgeon Mark Hausmann with the Our Lady of the Lake Physician Group.
"What happens is in a lot of patients, they'll take antacid medicines or certain medicines that are supposed to reduce the acid in the stomach, which helps heartburn," Hausmann said. "But still when you lay down at night, if you have bad reflux, you still get that sensation of stomach contents coming up to the back of your throat, and there's no medicine that prevents that."
Acid reflux happens when acid from the stomach moves up into the esophagus through the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the muscle located at the opening of the stomach. The LINX device is a string of magnetic beads that's placed around the LES. It keeps acid from moving up, while still allowing food and liquid to go down.
The outpatient procedure is done laproscopically, meaning only five small incisions are made. Once the LINX band is snapped into place, recovery time is minimal, and patients return to a normal diet immediately.
In December, Loudon became the first patient in Baton Rouge to get the LINX device. Hausmann and his colleagues are currently the only doctors to offer the procedure in the Capital area. It was performed for the first time in Louisiana in November in Covington. About 2500 procedures have been performed worldwide since LINX won FDA approval in March 2012, Hausmann said.
Loudon called it a "miracle procedure," and said she's been able to stop taking all acid reflux medications.
"I don't even know it's there. I've never felt any different," she said about a month after getting the device. "I feel fortunate that I was able to have it done, that my insurance paid for it, and I was fortunate that I had a surgeon who came highly recommended."
The only potential setback with LINX is getting insurance companies to approve the relatively new procedure. While Medicare does cover the device, Hausmann said delays with insurance companies is the main reason more patients have not yet taken advantage of the innovation. Without insurance, the cost is $12,500.
"Reflux is a very pervasive problem in this country. About one in five adults actually have significant reflux. A lot of patients can manage it with medications, but there are many patients where medication really is not adequate," he said.
Hausmann cautioned that LINX is not for everyone, and said an assessment must be done to determine if a patient is a good candidate. In some cases, a large hiatal hernia can prevent the device from working.
The LINX band can be removed if necessary, but usually is well-tolerated.
For more information:
Dr. Mark Hausmann
The LINX Reflux Management System: