Hoag hospital has become the only Orange County facility to offer a new treatment for chronic reflux disease, the Newport Beach hospital has announced.
According to Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian, chronic reflux afflicts 15 percent of Americans, and in clinical trials, the LINX Reflux Management System stopped the condition in 75 percent to 80 percent of those participating in two national trials.
After the trials, Hoag said this week in a press release, the Federal Drug Administration approved the procedure, and Hoag used it for the first time soon afterward, in October.
For millions of Americans, eating can become "a daily chore they anticipate with dread,” said Dr. John C. Lipham, principal investigator at USC for the FDA-regulated clinical trial of LINX. He added that the condition can cause "severe discomfort, robbing people of their sleep."
According to Hoag, the LINX system is an laparoscopic outpatient procedure in which a small bracelet-like device of magnetic beads is surgically placed at the lower esophageal sphincter, a circular band of muscle that closes the last few centimeters of the esophagus and prevents the backward flow of stomach contents. Lipham said the beads, which are made up of titanium and have a magnetic core, are connected with titanium wires in the shape of a ring.
"The force of attraction of the magnetic beads is designed to provide additional strength to keep a weak valve closed," a Hoag press release explained. "When a person swallows, the magnetic force between the beads is overcome by the higher pressure of the force of swallowing, causing the device to expand to accommodate food or liquid. Once the food or liquid passes though the valve, the LINX device returns to its normal state of keeping the valve closed."
Lipham gave an example of a patient who was helped by the procedure. The woman in her 40s had reflux so bad that she had to sleep upright in a recliner. Even with a lot of medication, she still had heartburn and sometimes would aspirate material into her lungs. But after the LINX procedure, she doesn't have chronic reflux, Lipham said.
LINX patients are usually able to go back to a regular diet after three or four weeks after the procedure, said Lipham, who has been involved in working on LINX for more than five years. Hoag is one of three centers in California implanting these devices, through the Hoag-USC Surgical Center for Digestive Diseases.