Published on August 22, 2019

A New Procedure Lets Her Live Without Heartburn

Photo of Jennifer Bahm and one of her animals from her family’s hobby farm.

Jennifer Bahm and one of her animals from her family’s hobby farm.

Jennifer Bahm’s life is devoted to her family. The 34-year-old resident of Crystal is a stay-at-home mother of two. Lately, she has been busy working with her husband and kids to start a small hobby farm.

Ever since her first pregnancy, Bahm had a persistent problem that plagued her, she suffered from acid reflux. As time went on, the problem only got worse.

Bahm tried everything she could to get her heartburn under control. She tried several antacid medications, switching from one to another over-the-counter product to find relief. One by one, each medication she tried eventually stopped working for her. “It didn’t matter what I did, there was always acid,” she says.

It was Bahm’s dentist who first recognized just how serious her condition was. During a routine dental cleaning, the dentist noticed wear on Bahm’s teeth from constant acid exposure.

With this noticeable damage, Bahm knew she needed to do something. She asked her primary care doctor for advice, who referred her to General Surgeon Jeffrey Bonacci, M.D., who specializes in stomach and digestive tract procedures.

Dr. Bonacci ran a few tests to assess Bahm’s situation. She underwent a scope examination, where a tube was inserted down her throat to view her stomach and esophagus. These tests revealed a significant amount of damage in Bahm’s throat – wear and tear on the inside of her esophagus from the stomach acid.

But Dr. Bonacci was able to offer Bahm hope using a new medical device, referred to as the LINX® Reflux Management System, which had recently been developed for people with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and persistent heartburn. It consists of a stretchable ring of titanium magnets that is placed around the base of the esophagus, right where it enters the stomach. The LINX stretches to allow food to pass through when swallowed, but tightens to prevent stomach acid from escaping upward.

Bahm knew right away that she wanted the procedure. “I just liked the idea that I wouldn’t have to take meds,” she says. Dr. Bonacci was already planning to do a corrective surgery for a hiatal hernia that Bahm had, so while he was operating, he could do the LINX procedure at the same time.

On April 11, 2019, Bahm became the first patient to have the LINX system implanted at MidMichigan Medical Center – Gratiot. The procedure was performed laparoscopically with only tiny incisions made. Bahm got through the procedure and on her way to healing quickly and smoothly. Her attentive care team even encouraged her to eat a little once she woke up from the anesthesia.

It took Bahm about six weeks to fully recover from the LINX procedure. During this time, she was instructed to eat about once an hour to stretch the LINX so the scar tissue would form correctly. At first, she had to avoid foods that were difficult to digest, such as bread and meat. The care team at MidMichigan Medical Center - Gratiot taught her how to take small bites and chew thoroughly before swallowing, to go easy on her stomach while she recovered.

At her six week follow-up visit, Bahm was given the all-clear. Her stomach and the incision sites had healed up nicely, and she no longer needed to eat every hour. She also had all food restrictions lifted, and can now eat anything she wants.

Bahm was concerned about having metal in her body and was afraid it would restrict her from certain scans and machinery. That concern was quickly laid to rest as the LINX is perfectly fine for specific types of MRI scans, should she ever end up needing to have one in the future. She also reports having no problems going through the metal detector at security during a recent trip to Michigan’s Adventure.

The best part of everything is the relief from the constant heartburn. “I’m not taking any antacids now,” she says. “I haven’t had any acid reflux; it’s been really good.”

This newfound comfort will no doubt be a great benefit to Bahm as she and her family turns their hobby farm idea into a reality. “I’m really happy with the results,” she says.

Those who would like additional information about the LINX Reflux Management System may visit www.midmichigan.org/linx or call (989) 463-6699. Those who would like more information on MidMichigan Health may visit www.midmichigan.org

LINX® is a registered trademark of Johnson & Johnson.

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