What’s reflux and how can I get relief?

By Brian Binetti, MD  |  12/7/2017

 Reflux is a disease. Not a bad meal choice. Also called gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, it is caused by a weak muscle in your esophagus that allows acid and bile to flow from the stomach back up into the throat. Normally, this acid breaks down food into molecules your body can absorb. When acid leaves your stomach, however:

  • It wears away the lining of the esophagus, causing irritation, inflammation and painful symptoms. Over time, insult can lead to serious injury and cancer. 
  • It can damage your throat and vocal cords, causing hoarseness, dry cough, change in voice, difficulty swallowing and chronic soreness.
  • It can cause coughing, wheezing, bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma and other breathing issues.

Heartburn is the most common symptom. GERD may lead to serious complications, including esophageal cancer.

Treatment options

You can try lifestyle changes, including weight loss and a healthy diet, to see if the symptoms go away. Reflux medications can also reduce acid production in the stomach, but they are a quick fix. They don’t address the cause of reflux, or prevent it. Moreover, there could be health risks associated with long-term use of these medications. It’s important to understand the pros and cons of any medications you take.

Health Quest Medical Practice now offers the Linx system at Northern Dutchess Hospital as an alternative. The Linx is a small implant comprised of interlinked titanium beads with magnetic cores. The magnetic attraction between the beads allows the lower esophageal muscle to close and prevent reflux. The device is implanted with a minimally invasive approach using the da Vinci Surgical System. On average, the procedure takes about 40 minutes.

Your anatomy remains unchanged, which is much different than a Nissen fundoplication. Compared to fundoplication, where the surgeon wraps the top of the stomach around the lower esophagus, people with the Linx implant are still able to belch and vomit. Most patients return to normal activities almost immediately. The procedure is also reversible.

If you’ve been diagnosed with reflux disease and continue to suffer from symptoms that impact your quality of life, talk to your doctor about treatment options. For a surgical consultation with Dr. Binetti, call 845-871-4275 (TTY: 800-421-1220).

Read more about GERD in our health library here.

Dr. Brian Binetti is a general surgeon and the director of metabolic and weight loss surgery at Health Quest Medical Practice. His office is in Rhinebeck and he is on the medical staff at Northern Dutchess Hospital.