About 25 million Americans suffer with acid reflux disease or chronic heartburn, with symptoms such as burning and discomfort in the chest, throat and heart area. Unfortunately, for many acid reflux disease sufferers, conventional therapies such as antacids simply aren’t enough to halt the burning sensation.
However, a novel new therapy involving the use of an implanted metal ring may hold the key to relieving the troublesome symptoms of acid reflux disease, even when all else fails.
Heartburn occurs when a weak sphincter muscle in the esophagus (the tube that passes food down from your mouth to your stomach) doesn’t close properly after swallowing food. Normally, once food has passed down into the stomach for digestion, this muscle acts as a gate, preventing harsh acids in the stomach from spraying up into the more sensitive esophagus. But when this muscle is weak, a gap into the esophagus remains open during stomach digestion, allowing these stomach acids to splash upwards where they don’t belong, and creating the pain and discomforts of heartburn.
Although medications such as Nexium and Prilosec help to reduce heartburn symptoms by neutralizing stomach acids, they do nothing to correct the underlying muscular problem, and can create digestion problems by neutralizing stomach juices that should remain acidic. For some sufferers, these medications aren’t strong enough to reduce the burning feeling. Heartburn symptoms can become so bad that some sufferers even report having to sleep upright in order to prevent food from coming up while they sleep. If left untreated, heartburn and acid reflux disease can also progress into more serious disorders, such as an eroded esophagus and even throat cancer.
Torax Medical Inc. of St. Paul, Minnesota, has therefore developed a novel and effective treatment method that differs from heartburn treatment approaches that have come before it; it involves the use of a tiny magnetic ring called “The Linx device.”
The Linx device is a ring that is made of titanium beads with magnets inside, and it was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of chronic heartburn about a year ago. For the procedure, doctors use a scope and a small incision in the belly area to place the ring at the base of the throat where the weak muscles lie. The procedure takes about 30 minutes and once the device is implanted, the patient doesn’t feel the ring at all. The ring helps to relieve burning heart symptoms by preventing the weak muscles from opening when they shouldn’t and thereby helping to seal off stomach juices. Although the ring helps to keep the muscles closed when they should be, it is also flexible enough to expand and let food pass when the patient swallows.
According to study results, the Linx ring greatly reduces measures of acid in the throat and it increases the quality of life of patients by 92 percent. Also, within one year, 86 percent of patients who have the Linx device implanted no longer require antacid medications.
However, like all good things, this heartburn solution comes with a price – it can cost anywhere from $12,000 to $20,000 dollars, making it inaccessible for many sufferers who do not have health care coverage. Luckily, for those who do have health insurance, the majority of insurance companies will cover this procedure for people who have heartburn that does not respond to antacid medications.
For chronic sufferers who can afford the expense, the Linx ring can be life transforming. Patients tout the treatment as “life changing,” stating that the procedure fixed their symptoms “immediately” and that they can finally eat normally again after decades of restricted eating. Although the early results of this procedure are deemed extremely impressive, some cautionary practitioners warn that only time will tell how well these implanted devices will hold-up in the long run.