Although surgery for heartburn may sound extreme, it’s the standard treatment when the underlying cause involves a problem with your anatomy.
Dr. Nirav Naik at New Life Medical in Bakersfield, California, is one of the first surgeons in the state to adopt the latest technology and specialize in a new technique that revolutionizes heartburn surgery. Here, he explains when you might need the LINX procedure and how it works.
Heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux. When acid in your stomach slips upward into your esophagus, it irritates the tissue and causes a burning sensation. Because your esophagus is situated in your chest, the sensation was dubbed “heartburn,” even though it doesn’t involve your heart.
You may experience occasional acid reflux and heartburn after a large meal, consuming alcohol, or eating spicy, fried, or acidic foods. But chronic acid reflux, also called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), indicates a different, possibly anatomical, problem.
When to consider heartburn surgery
Over-the-counter and prescription-strength antacids and heartburn medications, such as proton pump inhibitors and H2 antagonists, shouldn’t be used long-term because they can change the delicate balance of your gut flora and could lead to serious health issues like osteoporosis, celiac disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Medications can’t address the problems that stem from the following conditions.
You have a thin wall of muscle called a diaphragm that separates your abdomen from your chest cavity. A hiatal hernia occurs when the upper portion of your stomach pushes through the small opening in your diaphragm and bulges into the chest cavity.
Many hiatal hernias (especially large ones) cause the same symptoms as GERD: heartburn, acid reflux, chest or abdominal pain, and difficulty swallowing.
Esophageal sphincter dysfunction
At the bottom of your esophagus, there’s a muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) that opens to let food drop into your stomach and closes to keep acid from traveling upward. Several things can go wrong with your LES and lead to heartburn and other complications. For example:
- GERD: when your LES doesn’t close properly
- Achalasia: when it won’t open properly
- Barrett’s esophagus: when acid changes the esophageal cells over time
These conditions all indicate the need for heartburn surgery.
How does heartburn surgery work?
If you have a hiatal hernia that’s causing GERD, Dr. Naik can surgically repair the hernia and resolve your symptoms. For esophageal disorders, a surgical procedure called the Nissen fundoplication has been the standard for many years.
In the Nissen procedure, your surgeon wraps the upper part of your stomach around the lower part of your esophagus to create a tighter closure. This makeshift LES can cause other problems, however, such as the inability to burp or regurgitate, leading to gas and bloating.
Dr. Naik offers a better solution: the LINX® Reflux Management System. He inserts a device at the base of your esophagus to stand in for the faulty sphincter. It’s a ring of magnetic titanium beads.
Rather than wrapping your esophagus with an inflexible portion of stomach tissue, the LINX beads expand and contract much like your LES, allowing you to swallow, burp, and vomit when necessary.
Do you need surgery for heartburn?
Don’t ignore heartburn. Call New Life Medical at 661-230-7344 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Naik to find out if heartburn surgery with the LINX procedure can save your esophagus.