Heartburn & Acid Reflux (GERD) Surgery

Heartburn, also known as acid reflux or GERD, is a very common problem that affects millions of Americans. Occasional heartburn is normal and can often be managed with over-the-counter medications. However, when reflux becomes chronic, it is known as GERD and requires medical attention. Most often, the esophageal valve or Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES), which opens to drop food and liquid into the stomach, weakens and malfunctions. This allows stomach acid to push back into the esophageal tract. If left untreated or undertreated, acid reflux can erode the lining of the esophagus and cause serious complications such as stricture or a pre-cancerous condition known as Barrett’s Esophagus.

Certain over-the-counter or prescription medications can alleviate discomfort for mild cases of heartburn or inflammation of the esophagus. Often, however, medication is not sufficient to keep the acid reflux under control, and surgery may be required. In short, surgery can be a better option than staying on medication because most medications only treat the symptoms and not the underlying cause of the acid reflux. Further, most medications for acid reflux, including the popular omeprazole, a proton pump inhibitor, are indicated for short-term use only.

Surgery for Acid Reflux

The most common acid reflux surgical procedure performed today is known as fundoplication. This is where the upper part of the stomach is wrapped around the lower part of the esophagus to add pressure to the lower esophageal sphincter. There are several fundoplication sub-types, including a full wrap, a Nissen fundoplication, or partial wraps known as Toupet or Dor fundoplications. These procedures have an excellent success rate, and most patients are delighted with the results, having significantly improved or eliminated the symptoms of chronic acid reflux.

The ideal acid reflux surgical patient has not found significant relief using pharmaceuticals or over-the-counter medication. This procedure may also be suited to those who often experience significant heartburn and may not want to continue taking anti-reflux medicines. The latter may particularly appreciate the possibility of resolving the reflux once and for all.

Much like any other surgical procedure, anti-reflux surgery has inherent risk. Learning more about the advantages and disadvantages of undergoing a surgical procedure for heartburn is an important first step.

We recommend that you contact our office for a consultation with our surgeons.