When Heartburn Medications Just Aren’t Cutting It

UT Health Austin patient finds relief from chronic heartburn after LINX surgery

Reviewed by: Connor Brubaker (patient)
Written by: Lauryn Gerard

Mason, a patient in Digestive Health, stands in an outdoor corridor with his University of Texas yellow stole while smiling.

Connor Brubaker, a PhD student at Texas A&M who was raised in Austin, Texas, received his bachelor’s degree from The University of Texas at Austin (Hook ’em!) and is a practicing musician who enjoys playing the piano and organ in his free time. His schedule is jam-packed with school and work, and for this overachieving Zoomer (short from Gen Z), he had no interest in popping prescription proton-pump inhibitor pills every day for the rest of his life to manage his severe heartburn symptoms, and who could blame him?

“About five years ago, I started experiencing a lot of heartburn. It was happening daily, and it got pretty bad. When I went to my doctor about it, they prescribed me Prevacid, and I took that for a few years, but it just wasn’t cutting it,” explains Connor. “Even with higher doses of the medication, I was still experiencing symptoms. I was still getting heartburn, I couldn’t eat certain things, and I would often feel nauseated after eating.”

Connor always suspected that the cause of his heartburn stemmed from more than just the food he was eating. After trying medication for years without any relief, his doctor referred him to the Heartburn and Esophageal Disorders clinical practice within Digestive Health, a clinical partnership between Ascension Seton and UT Health Austin. This team specializes in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of disorders of the foregut, including achalasia, Barrett’s esophagus, complex hiatal hernias, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and other esophageal disorders.

Connor met with UT Health Austin board-certified surgeon F. P. “Tripp” Buckley, MD, FACS, who serves as the Surgical Director of Digestive Health, and UT Health Austin licensed physician assistant Stephanie Doggett, PA-C, to discuss surgical options to treat his chronic heartburn, also commonly referred to as GERD. It was later uncovered that the root cause of Connor’s GERD was due to a hiatal hernia in his abdomen, which occurs when part of the stomach bulges through an opening in the diaphragm, allowing food and liquid to flow back into the esophagus.

“When I found out there was an actual cause for my symptoms and that they could be fixed, meaning I wouldn’t have to take medications for the rest of my life, that was a huge relief,” says Connor. “I was like, ‘Let’s do it!,’ because I’m just one of those people that even if the journey may be tougher, if it’s going to provide a long-term solution, then I’m going to do it.”

There were two main goals for Connor’s treatment plan: first, to fix the hiatal hernia and prevent Connor’s stomach from pushing into his upper chest, and second, to prevent symptoms of GERD from returning. This was accomplished by using minimally invasive surgical techniques and the LINX® Reflux Management System, a tiny bracelet of magnetic titanium beads that surrounds and compresses the lower esophageal sphincter to prevent stomach acids from refluxing into the esophagus.

“Initially, I was pretty nervous and a bit uncertain about the procedure,” says Connor, “until Dr. Buckley told me that he underwent the LINX procedure himself back in 2013. I figured if he trusted the device enough to have it placed in his own body, then I would be ok, too.”

Visit here to learn more about Dr. Buckley’s personal experience with GERD.

Dr. Buckley and the rest of the surgical team were able to repair Connor’s hiatal hernia and place the LINX device without any complications. Connor recovered from the procedure without experiencing any complications and has since returned to normal life.

“Since the surgery, I have had absolutely zero incident of heartburn. I don’t even remember what it feels like to have heartburn,” shares Connor. “I can eat whatever I want, everything feels normal, and my quality of life has improved significantly since going through with the surgery. The clinical team and hospital staff were excellent, and I really felt like my well-being was their top priority and fixing the underlying cause of my condition was the ultimate goal. I highly recommend this team.”

If you are someone who suffers from chronic heartburn, indigestion, or acid reflux, you can enjoy life without the consequences of GERD. Treatments options beyond over-the-counter medications are available to help to resolve GERD at its source.

To make an appointment with the Heartburn and Esophageal Disorders clinical practice or to learn more about services offered through Digestive Health, call 1-844-GI-AUSTIN (1-844-442-8742) or visit here.

    About the Partnership Between UT Health Austin and Ascension Seton

    The collaboration between UT Health Austin and Ascension brings together medical professionals, medical school learners, and researchers who are all part of the integrated mission of transforming healthcare delivery and redesigning the academic health environment to better serve society. This collaboration allows highly specialized providers who are at the forefront of the latest research, diagnostic, and technological developments to build an integrated system of care that is a collaborative resource for clinicians and their patients.

    About UT Health Austin

    UT Health Austin is the clinical practice of the Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin. We collaborate with our colleagues at the Dell Medical School and The University of Texas at Austin to utilize the latest research, diagnostic, and treatment techniques, allowing us to provide patients with an unparalleled quality of care. Our experienced healthcare professionals deliver personalized, whole-person care of uncompromising quality and treat each patient as an individual with unique circumstances, priorities, and beliefs. Working directly with you, your care team creates an individualized care plan to help you reach the goals that matter most to you — in the care room and beyond. For more information, call us at 1-833-UT-CARES or request an appointment here.