Implanted magnetic bracelet helps treat chronic heartburn
A tiny magnetic bracelet implanted at the base of the throat is greatly improving life for some people with chronic heartburn who need more help than medicine can give them.
It’s a novel way to treat severe acid reflux, which plagues millions of Americans and can raise their risk for more-serious health problems.
It happens when a weak muscle doesn’t close after swallowing as it should. That lets stomach juices splash back into the throat. Drugs such as Nexium and Prilosec reduce acid. But they don’t fix the underlying problem, called GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease.
The new device was approved a year ago by the federal Food and Drug Administration and also is sold in Europe.
The Linx device, made by Torax Medical Inc., of St. Paul, Minn., is a ring of titanium beads with magnets inside. Doctors place it around the weak muscle at the base of the esophagus in a half-hour operation using a scope and “keyhole” incisions in the belly. The ring reinforces the weak muscle to keep it closed, yet is flexible and expands to let food pass when someone swallows.
The ring comes in multiple sizes; it is about a half-inch in diameter and expands to about 1.5 inches. People don’t feel it once it is implanted.