A Game Changer: LINX
Plenty of fans and coaches lose their voice after watching a hard-fought game, but football coach Matthew Bowman’s ongoing hoarseness over the past year signaled a far more serious yet common condition – gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
“I talk for a living,” says Matt, a defensive football coordinator and high school math teacher. “Every play on the field requires constant feedback to correct or communicate with kids in an energetic way. I conserved my words, drank plenty of water, used lozenges, watched what I ate and tried medications, but nothing relieved my throat pain.”
Needing a new game plan, Matt consulted Atif Iqbal, MD, FACS, medical director of the Digestive Care Center at Orange Coast Medical Center. Dr. Iqbal is also one of the first doctors on the West Coast trained to implant the simple, yet remarkably effective, LINX device to cure GERD.
Intercepting Stomach Acid
GERD results when a ring of muscle between the lower esophagus and the top of the stomach doesn't close properly. This weak muscle, called the lower esophageal sphincter, or LES, causes the stomach contents to flow back up into the esophagus. An outpatient endoscopy procedure to examine the inside of his upper digestive system confirmed Matt’s reflux disease.
Most people who have GERD suffer more than once a week with chronic indigestion, or heartburn, and in some cases have difficulty swallowing or a chronic cough. Left untreated, GERD can lead to more than a dozen health concerns, including cancer. Reflux disease may develop for a variety of reasons, including a hiatal hernia, obesity or pregnancy. Exercise that increases pressure in the abdominal cavity – like the weightlifting Matt did as a high school athlete – may also lead to GERD.
“We first try medications that temporarily reduce stomach acid and may provide short-term relief, but these therapies do not provide LES muscle reinforcement,” says Dr. Iqbal. “To prevent long-term damage that moderate or severe GERD can cause to the stomach, esophagus and even the vocal chords, sometimes surgery is the best solution.”
The LINX Reflux Management System employs the newest technique to effectively treat GERD. During an outpatient, minimally invasive procedure, Dr. Iqbal implants a flexible, titanium bracelet with a core of magnetic beads that encircles the LES. The magnetic attraction of the beads reinforces the body’s natural ability to block reflux.
“For patients like Matt, LINX offers a solution to years of discomfort,” says Dr. Iqbal. “Patients are relieved from their reflux immediately with no side effects.”
The Digestive Care Center at Orange Coast Memorial is among the first in Southern California to undergo the in-depth training needed to offer LINX.
“Not only is LINX extremely safe, it offers patients like Matt an immediate cure. Patients can go home within a day and be GERD-free again.”
“I thought I would have to be on a liquid diet, but I was wrong. I was able to eat whatever I wanted the day after my surgery. I was over the moon,” says Matt.
Making the Right Call
Now that Matt’s GERD is gone, his damaged vocal chords are gradually healing. He is using fewer video aides and more personal communication to teach and coach kids.
“I can drink coffee, sing and teach at church. I can actually have conversations with my wife about my day. These simple things had become nearly impossible,” says Matt. “I’m really thankful to have my full quality of life back.”
If you are one of the 30 million Americans suffering from GERD, please consult with one of the specialists at the Digestive Care Center at Orange Coast Medical Center.
Listen to Emerging Technology in the Treatment of Extreme GERD a podcast by Dr. Iqbal’s to learn about emerging technology and treatments for GERD, or watch this short video about the LINX procedure.