Ascension Via Christi St. Francis in Wichita is the first hospital in south-central Kansas to offer the minimally invasive LINX® Reflux Management System as a treatment option for gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD.
Surgeon Brent Lancaster, MD, of Wichita Surgical Specialists, is the area’s first to use the system to surgically treat patients suffering from acid reflux.
“This is a new and improved way to treat an old problem,” says Dr. Lancaster, noting that treatment options for patients with acid reflux treatment previously were limited to medication therapy or a surgical procedure that converted the esophageal sphincter into a one-way rather than two-way valve.
For 67-year-old retiree and community volunteer, Joleen Murphree, one of the first patients to undergo treatment with the system at St. Francis, the procedure was “life changing.” For the past six years, Joleen had been plagued by acid reflux so persistent and severe that it frequently caused a burning sensation in her ears, a flushed face and a partial paralysis of her vocal chords.
“I would be speaking before a group of medical professionals and I would lose my voice," says Joleen, then a medical imaging consultant. She eventually began avoiding business and social activities that involved food or drink for fear of triggering an episode, which on average would last 20 minutes or more.
After a series of diagnostic tests, Joleen was diagnosed with severe GERD and laryngopharyngeal reflux, a condition in which the stomach acid travels up the esophagus and spills into the throat or voice box.
"Since I have had the LINX surgery, my friends, spouse and I have marveled at how this procedure has addressed and resolved my GERD issues,” she says.
During the approximately 90-minute outpatient procedure performed under general anesthesia, Dr. Lancaster accessed Joleen's abdominal cavity through five, one-half inch or smaller incisions. He then used a small camera and instruments to place a small flexible ring of interlinked titanium beads around the last portion of Joleen’s esophagus. The ring is designed to help the lower esophageal sphincter resist gastric pressures to open, preventing reflux from Joleen’s stomach from entering her esophagus, the tubular organ that allows food to go from the mouth to the stomach.
Joleen went home two days later and immediately was encouraged to begin eating semi-soft foods to prevent scar tissue from developing around the ring that would prevent her esophageal sphincter from opening and closing.
While Joleen knew that her procedure would be one of the first performed in Wichita, she didn’t think twice about having the Medicare-covered procedure once she knew it was a treatment option.
“I was going to have it done because I needed relief," says Joleen. “The procedure, coupled with my close following of Dr. Lancaster’s post-operative instructions, has allowed me to sleep without my head elevated and I can again fully enjoy dining out with friends and family.
"I can now virtually eat anything. I just have to take smaller bites and focus on my swallowing, but that's nothing like what I was living with before."