St. Luke’s First in Region to Offer Robotic GERD Procedure (Sponsored)

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St. Luke’s University Health Network is the first health care provider in the Lehigh Valley region to offer a minimally invasive robotic surgery to place a LINX device in patients suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and repair associated hiatal hernias.

St. Luke’s thoracic surgeon Dustin Manchester, MD, and bariatric surgeon Maher El Chaar, MD, have both been trained in the LINX procedure.

“St. Luke’s is privileged to be the first center in the Lehigh Valley to offer the LINX procedure robotically,” Dr. Manchester noted. “This procedure has significantly fewer complications of recurrence, slippage or gas bloating than the traditional fundoplication. Moreover, the LINX device does not change the patient’s own natural gastric anatomy (as is the case with a traditional fundoplication).”

The LINX device is a string of magnetic titanium beads on a wire that is custom fit to each patient. During the procedure, the device is placed surgically at the gastroesophageal junction. The magnets help keep the lower esophageal sphincter closed to prevent reflux. When a patient swallows, the LINX device opens temporarily to allow food and liquids into the stomach.

Most patients stay in the hospital for one night and are discharged to home the following day. As this procedure is performed minimally invasively with small incisions, most patients have very little pain and can return to work within a few weeks.

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St. Luke’s University Hospital in Fountain Hill (FILE PHOTO)

Using robotic-assisted surgery to place the LINX and repair the patient’s hiatal hernia when appropriate has benefits for both the surgeon and the patient.

“It gives the surgeon better visualization and an easier way to find the anatomical planes,” Dr. El Chaar said. “It’s also less painful than (the) standard laparoscopic approach for the patient and only requires an overnight stay at the hospital.”

“Robotic assisted surgery allows the surgeon practically unlimited dexterity and precision of movements all through small, minimally invasive incisions,” Dr. Manchester explained. “In addition, for patients with larger hernias, robotic surgery gives the surgeon more controlled access up into the chest, allowing for a more complete dissection of the hernia, thus leading to fewer recurrences.”

On April 19, Sandra Cahill, 46, of Wilson Borough was the first St. Luke’s patient to have the LINX device implanted robotically. In addition, Dr. Manchester also repaired a hiatal hernia that had wrapped around her stomach and diaphragm.

“Before the procedure, I always felt like there was something in the back of my throat,” she said. After I ate, I had stomach pains. Now, I feel a lot better. The healing process was very smooth with no issues. And, everyone treated me so well. Dr. Manchester even called me himself to see how I was feeling that evening.”

Cahill–who used to eat very quickly–said she had to learn to eat more slowly and take smaller bites. Now, she feels full sooner and has even lost 20 pounds since the procedure. The heartburn stopped immediately.

Matthew Citino, 33, of Summit Hill, whose LINX procedure was also performed on April 19, said he hasn’t had heartburn a single time since the surgery and no longer needs any medication.

“Before, I couldn’t even lie down at night,” he said of the time before the procedure. His acid reflux was so severe that lying down in bed would upset his stomach to the point that it sometimes caused vomiting.

“Since the surgery I feel normal again,” he added. “I no longer have to worry about taking pills and I can eat whatever I want. I’m Italian and grew up on pasta, red sauce and meatballs. I like hot food too and now I can enjoy the foods I love again.”

Dr. El Chaar said candidates for the LINX procedure include any patient who has reflux that is not controlled with medication or anybody who wants to be off anti-acid medication.

“St. Luke’s is committed to offering the best available treatment options to patients and using the latest technologies,” Dr. El Chaar explained. “We have developed a comprehensive heartburn center where we offer patients a multitude of options. We are excited that the LINX is now one of them.”

For more information about the LINX procedure, call St. Luke’s at 1-866-785-8537 or visit

Note: This regional health news is brought to you in partnership with St. Luke’s University Health Network.

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