Heartburn, GERD & Acid Reflux

Surgical procedure provided by Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital offers potentially permanent solution for heartburn and acid reflux

Many people with heartburn, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and acid reflux can reverse their symptoms with changes in lifestyle and diet or with medication. For some, those changes alone may not bring relief to their symptoms.

Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital now offers an outpatient laparoscopic procedure called the LINX® Reflux Management System to permanently address acid reflux. Recent studies have also shown that long term use of proton pump inhibitors to treat reflux may be harmful—this procedure can eliminate the need for those medications.

Since 2017, Dr. Jorge Leiva, general surgery specialist at Houston Methodist Willowbrook, has been using the LINX laparoscopic procedure for patients as an alternative to traditional types of surgical intervention in the treatment of GERD. The procedure involves the placement of a ring of small magnetized titanium beads that wraps around the base of the esophagus. The magnetic beads help prevent gastric acids from pushing up into the esophagus, which causes heartburn.

The procedure typically takes 45 minutes to one hour to complete and a one- to two-night stay in the hospital for recovery. According to Leiva, about 95 percent of patients who undergo the surgery experience a complete resolution of GERD symptoms and no longer require medication. Patients also experience fewer side effects, and they can eat a normal diet after surgery.

“Placement of the ring does not involve significant alterations to the anatomy,” said Leiva. “It’s a well-tolerated procedure with fewer side effects than traditional surgical interventions. Patients can eat a normal diet after surgery.”

Lucian Popescu, a Houston-based engineer, suffered from chronic heartburn for years before he went to Leiva.

“I had a heartburn condition for many years, and then around 2003, I experienced it on a permanent basis. No matter what I did, I still had heartburn,” said Popescu. “I’ve finally found a solution with Dr. Leiva’s approach. I am so impressed with how it addresses the root cause of the condition that I have.”

Leiva performed the procedure on Popescu and expects he will have the device for the rest of his life. “Popescu was suffering from reflux even while he was taking the proton pump inhibitors. I’m pleased to see he’s doing very well post-surgery,” said Leiva.

“I don’t have heartburn anymore,” said Popescu. “I’m just a normal person without restricting myself like I did when I took the proton pump inhibitors. The side effects of the surgery were mild. I expected it to be a lot more painful, but it wasn’t.”

Leiva says anyone at any age can be a suitable candidate for the surgery. However, he advises that prevention of GERD is still key.

“Not smoking, losing weight, not wearing tight clothes, not eating big spicy meals before bed, avoiding carbonated beverages, coffee and chocolate, and avoiding going to bed right after you eat can keep away the symptoms of heartburn and acid reflux,” said Leiva.

To set up an appointment with Leiva, call 713.426.2400.

For information about other GERD treatment options available at Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital, visit houstonmethodist.org/GERD or contact the Reflux Services team at 281.737.GERD (4373).

About Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital

Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital is a 312 bed, not-for-profit, faith-based hospital, which is part of Houston Methodist. The hospital has expanded in Northwest Houston to serve the comprehensive health care needs of the growing community.

Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital has been named a Magnet recognized health care facility by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s (ANCC) Magnet Recognition Program®.

Houston Methodist Willowbrook is ranked No. 5 in the Houston metro area and No. 12 in Texas by U.S. News & World Report as a “Best Hospital” in 2017.

Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital specializes in cardiology and cardiovascular services, neurology, neurosurgery, orthopedics and sports medicine, and comprehensive cancer services. Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital has a Breast Care Center, Cancer Center, Imaging Center, Infusion Center, Sleep Center, and Surgical Weight Loss Center and operates a Childbirth Center with a Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

For more information about the comprehensive services available on the Houston Methodist Willowbrook campus and to learn about upcoming events, please visit houstonmethodist.org/willowbrook. To find a physician, call 281.737.2500.