Magnetic system offers new relief for acid reflux

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (WCAX) Gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD is a digestive disorder that's caused by a weak muscle in the esophagus. Normally, the lower esophageal sphincter works as a valve that opens and closes the stomach.

"In people with reflux disease, the LES allows harmful acid and bile to flow back to the esophagus causing a variety of symptoms," an informational video from Torax Medical explained.

Think you might have GERD? Symptoms can include heartburn, regurgitation, difficulty swallowing, chest pain, a sore throat, cough and hoarseness.

Dr. Michael Hill is the chief surgeon at Adirondack Health and a bit of a GERD specialist. In 2015, he started using a new piece of technology called LINX.

"An ingenious magnetic ring that if you place it around the end of the esophagus itself, it helps keep the valve closed. It doesn't squeeze the esophagus, it just stays there to keep the valve from opening easily. But it's weak enough that food can pass through to the stomach," Hill explained.

He said the surgery takes about 30 minutes and patients are expected to eat right away.

We spoke to one patient a few months after having LINX implanted.

"It's also kind of weird, you know, just thinking you've got a magnetic ring implanted in your body is kind of odd," Julie LaMere said.

LaMere went to Dr. Hill as her last hope. For months, she had a pesky cough that doctors couldn't figure out.

"They put me on all kinds of stuff and nothing, nothing was changing it," she said.

After a few tests, Hill found that LaMere had chronic regurgitation.

"I wasn't even aware it was happening," LaMere said.

Hill said she was a perfect candidate for surgery.

"I'm great," LaMere said. "He's my hero, really. I haven't coughed since I came out of surgery."

That was five months ago. Thanks to the LINX implant, that also means she's now medicine-free, too.