New Purpose For Magnetic Power

A minimally invasive procedure pulls patients out of acid reflux misery

Erica Goober, having experienced natural magnetism when she met her soon-to-be husband, was looking forward to her future as a newlywed. But she was dreading the inevitable moment each night when she would wake up choking from chronic acid reflux. Medications were not helping her, so she asked Jeffrey S. Mandel, MD, about surgical options. Dr. Mandel informed Erica of a new kind of magnetism, one that could not only allow her to sleep through the night without choking, but could also allow her to eat foods she could not eat before.

In Erica, Dr. Mandel saw a good candidate for the LINX Reflux Management System. The system, developed by Torax Medical, Inc., is a small, circular band of interlinked titanium beads with magnetic cores. Placed around the esophagus, this band of beads augments the natural function of the lower esophageal sphincter, or LES, through magnetic attraction.

“With acid reflux, the LES isn’t working properly anymore,” Mandel explains. “So the acid that is supposed to be in your stomach rises up to your esophagus. That’s when you get heartburn or the regurgitation of stomach contents.”

The LINX System uses magnetic attraction to strengthen the LES, helping it to close normally and prevent reflux. Dr. Mandel sees the LINX System as a superior long-term solution to acid-reflux medication.

“Medication can block acid from being produced in the stomach, which is good for heartburn, but patients can still have regurgitation,” Mandel says. “Another issue is that patients who develop tolerance to those medications often find that they don’t have satisfactory control over their reflux. The LINX System is a mechanical solution for a mechanical problem, rather than a pharmaceutical solution.”

The magnets are calibrated to be a certain strength, and the magnetic bond is broken by normal swallowing.

“The magnets are strong enough to keep acid from rising if there are any normal changes in pressure in the stomach,” Mandel says. “But the esophagus is still able to push food through and then allow the LES to be closed again by the LINX magnets.”

In fact, the only disadvantage of this procedure is that having an MRI is currently contraindicated; the concern is that the LINX System could become demagnetized, thus making the beads ineffective.

Not all patients who suffer from chronic reflux are candidates for the LINX procedure. Patients must be assessed by their physician, and for those with certain conditions, such as morbid obesity or a large hiatal hernia, the traditional surgical procedure will be more appropriate. This procedure, called the Nissen fundoplication, has also been shown to be a safe and effective solution, but Dr. Mandel notes that there are benefits for patients who are candidates for the LINX System.

“Patients who have traditional surgery may suffer from gas bloat syndrome,” Mandel explains. “They may have to deal with increased flatulence, and a small percentage of those patients won’t be able to belch or vomit. These kinds of possible side effects have made many people reluctant to undergo that surgery.”

The Nissen procedure involves wrapping part of the stomach around the bottom end of the esophagus to help reinforce the LES. The recovery period is longer, with strictly puréed food for the first two weeks and then 2 to 3 months of a slow reintroduction to a regular diet.

With the LINX System, patients like Erica are not only able to eat normally right away but are encouraged to, in order to help the body quickly adjust to the LINX band.

“She came to me in August and told me about her problems with reflux,” Mandel recalls. “She also told me she was getting married in a few months. I told her about the LINX System. I said, ‘I don’t want you to have to eat puréed wedding cake.’”

Erica Goober, now Erica Hagains, was happily married in November.

“She was able to both enjoy her wedding cake and sleep beautifully through the night, having had no reflux since her surgery in early October,” Mandel says. “She told me she couldn’t be happier.”



With acid reflux, the LES isn’t working properly anymore. The acid that is supposed to be in your stomach rises up to your esophagus. That’s when you get heartburn or the regurgitation of stomach contents. The LINX System uses magnetic attraction to strengthen the LES, helping it to close normally and prevent reflux. The magnets are strong enough to keep acid from rising, but the esophagus is still able to push food through and then allow the LES to be closed again by the magnets.
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