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St. Luke's First in Region to Offer Robotic Procedure for GERD
July 02, 2019

St. Luke’s University Health Network is the first 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.

Dustin Manchester, MD 

Dustin Manchester, MD

Maher El Chaar, MD 

Maher El Chaar, MD

“St. Luke’s is privileged to be the first center in the Lehigh Valley to offer the LINX procedure robotically,” Dr. Manchester notes. “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. 

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 says. “It’s also less painful than standard laparoscopic approach for the patient and only requires an overnight stay at the hospital.”

Adds Dr. Manchester: “Robotic assisted surgery allows the surgeon practically unlimited dexterity and precision of movements all through small, minimally invasive incisions,” he explains. “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 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 says that 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 explains. “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 https://www.linxforlife.com.


About St. Luke’s

Founded in 1872, St. Luke’s University Health Network (SLUHN) is a fully integrated, regional, non-profit network of more than 15,000 employees providing services at 10 hospitals and over 320 outpatient sites.  With annual net revenue greater than $2 billion, the Network’s service area includes 10 counties: Lehigh, Northampton, Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Montgomery, Monroe and Schuylkill counties in Pennsylvania and Warren and Hunterdon counties in New Jersey.  Dedicated to advancing medical education, St. Luke’s is the preeminent teaching hospital in central-eastern Pennsylvania.  In partnership with Temple University, St. Luke’s created the Lehigh Valley’s first and only regional medical school campus.  It also operates the nation’s longest continuously operating School of Nursing, established in 1884, and 28 fully accredited graduate medical educational programs with 226 residents and fellows.  St. Luke’s is the only Lehigh Valley-based health care system with Medicare’s five- and four-star ratings (the highest) for quality, efficiency and patient satisfaction.  St. Luke’s is both a Leapfrog Group and Healthgrades Top Hospital and a Newsweek World’s Best Hospital.  In 2019, three of IBM Watson Health’s 100 Top Hospitals were St. Luke’s hospitals.  St. Luke’s University Hospital has earned the 100 Top Major Teaching Hospital designation from IBM Watson Health seven times total and five years in a row. St. Luke’s has also been cited by IBM Watson Health as a 50 Top Cardiovascular Program.  Utilizing the Epic electronic medical record (EMR) system for both inpatient and outpatient services, the Network is a multi-year recipient of the Most Wired award recognizing the breadth of the SLUHN’s information technology applications such as telehealth, online scheduling and online pricing information.  St. Luke’s is also recognized as one of the state’s lowest cost providers.