Advanced GERD Procedure Restores Quality of Life to MTA Officer

When avid gym goer and Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) police officer Christopher Matzinger began having trouble breathing during his routine workouts, he grew frustrated and concerned.

“It’s easy to take something routine like breathing for granted, until you can’t do it,” said Matzinger.

Upon consulting with his general practitioner, Matzinger was diagnosed with asthma. Still, the 39-year-old remained committed to making physical activity a priority despite daily sore throats, which he then attributed to allergies. But when he began to gag and throw up stomach acid at the gym on a regular basis, he knew something else medically was going on.

  • 1 in 5 people in the United States suffer from GERD
  • 20 million patients are on proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), 38 percent still have symptoms
  • 10-15 percent will develop Barrett’s esophagus
  • These individuals have a 40 times greater risk of developing esophageal cancer

Inhalers, allergy shots and a slew of medications failed to provide him with relief, so Matzinger set out on a quest for answers. He researched his symptoms and advocated for several diagnostic tests, including two endoscopies, which confirmed he was suffering from “silent acid reflux,” a condition in which stomach acid flows back into the esophagus, causing discomfort in the throat. Wanting the very best treatment, coupled with very best care, Matzinger turned to NYU Winthrop Hospital for help.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a widespread condition that affects approximately 20 percent of the United States population. NYU Winthrop Hospital recently established Long Island’s first and only GERD Center – a collaboration between the Hospital’s gastrointestinal and surgical experts, designed to provide patients suffering from acid reflux and GERD with the latest treatment options. The Center dedicates its full resources, including a team of highly trained specialists who are leaders in their fields, to the accurate diagnosis and treatment of patients who suffer from these conditions.

“As leaders in the fields of surgery and gastroenterology, we wanted to create a Center where patients could benefit from our collaborative approach to care and receive a personalized care plan to ensure optimal results,” said Collin Brathwaite, MD, Chairman of the Department of Surgery at NYU Winthrop Hospital.

Matzinger underwent further diagnostic testing at NYU Winthrop. This included a high resolution esophageal manometry – a sophisticated test used to assess the force and coordination of the esophageal muscles as they move food to one’s stomach.

“This test is done prior to antireflux surgery to make sure patients don’t have a swallowing disorder known as achalasia, which GERD surgery can’t help,” said Bhawna Halwan, MD, Director of the Center of Gastrointestinal Motility at NYU Winthrop.

In addition, Matzinger underwent a 48-hour Bravo esophageal pH test. During this test, a small capsule (the size of a gel cap) is temporarily attached to the wall of the esophagus to measure and record the pH levels in a patient’s esophagus to determine if they have GERD.

“It is important for patients to have access to comprehensive diagnostic testing, such as the tests offered at NYU Winthrop, in order to fully assess the severity of their condition and determine which therapy is best,” added Dr. Halwan.

Mr. Matzinger had a positive PH test and demonstrated good muscle strength of the esophagus, so it was determined that he was an appropriate candidate for a new minimally invasive procedure called LINX®. The LINX procedure involves the laparoscopic placement of a flexible ring of magnet beads around the lower esophageal sphincter, preventing stomach acid from entering the esophagus.

“The magnets open up to enable food to pass through, and close after swallowing to prevent anything from coming back up into the esophagus,” said Dr. Brathwaite. “Patients usually go home the very same day with minor discomfort, and are back to eating regular foods within a day or two.”

NYU Winthrop is currently the only hospital in Nassau County to offer the LINX procedure, and was the first Hospital in Nassau County to perform the procedure on Mr. Matzinger in February 2018.

“LINX is a promising treatment alternative for patients with GERD, who often rely on over-the-counter medications and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) for relief,” said Dr. Brathwaite. “Not only does long-term use of PPIs greatly increase one’s risk for esophageal cancer, recent FDA safety notices point to other potential risks including increased risk of fractures, dementia, and heart attack to name just a few.”

Though the LINX procedure is still relatively new, it has restored comfort to many patients who have long suffered with GERD and acid reflux, including Matzinger. Today, he has mastered an important part of his physical therapy – training the muscles in his esophagus to push down foods he once was unable to enjoy. He’s also back to training some other muscles at the gym. In fact, Matzinger feels so good that he’s lost 20 pounds since undergoing the LINX procedure, and is most grateful for the care that he received at NYU Winthrop.

“Finding the right doctors, who listened to me and guided me in the right direction, was key,” he said. “There’s no reason for anyone to suffer – there is help. You just need to go the extra mile to get the care you deserve.”

 


Article originally appeared on CornerStone Vol. 28, No. 2, Fall 2018

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