There are 20 million Americans who suffer from acid reflux disease and have spent years searching for relief. Now, doctors said there's a new, less invasive surgery using magnets that could be a game changer.
Ed Lynch, of Newington, has suffered with the disease for at least 15 years.
"I would wake up in the night actually gagging because the acid would come up so far," Lynch said. "It would actually come into your lungs. It would affect my breathing and everything else."
No matter what he was eating, acid-filled foods or not, he felt the burning in his throat and stomach. He said he tried everything.
"Heavy duty Zantac, heavy duty PPIs," said Lynch. "And Zantac is one of those PPIs. I would take Mylanta or Tums on top of that to try to stem it."
Doctors said there's a valve or sphincter that does not work properly in the esophagus. That's what causes acid reflux disease.
From going from your stomach to your esophagus, when a patient has the disease, that valve does not work properly. It allows acid to go back and forth.
"Either it's not squeezing tight enough or it's not squeezing at the right times," said Dr. Jonathan Aranow of Middlesex Hospital. "And it's because it's weak you have this regurgitant flow."
The "regurgitation" is what causes the burning in the stomach and throat.
One day, Lynch said he received a wake-up call. His doctor told him that with so many years of acid reflux disease, he was on the verge of getting cancer because the esophagus was not designed to withstand the acid going to and from the stomach.
Lynch said he was told that he would have to have surgery and turned to Aranow. Doctors decided that he was a good candidate to have an implant known as "The Links Device."
The device is made of tiny magnets and it mimics the valve between the esophagus and the stomach.
"It's a way to augment that sphincter pressure so that's it's now working," Aranow said. "The door closes and prevents things from regurgitating."
The attraction between the magnets helps the sphincter in the esophagus to stay closed. However, the food the patient eats would overcome the attraction and pass through to the stomach normally.
Doctors said they made several incisions in the abdominal area and the Links was implanted by making a ring around the esophagus. The whole procedure took about 15 minutes.
After about a week, Lynch said he was back to normal and eating the foods he loved, just in smaller bites.
"It's imperative that you have your throat checked," Aranow recommended. "Because there are people who don't check in time and you get that horrific throat cancer."
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