Surgery for Reflux Disease/GERD
Do I have GERD?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease, known as GERD, occurs when stomach acids “back up” from the stomach into the esophagus. Many people think of GERD and heartburn as one and the same but heartburn – that burning sensation in your chest – is actually a symptom of reflux disease. The feeling may go down into the abdomen or up into the throat and neck and about 60 percent of adults will experience some type of GERD symptoms within a 12 month period with up to 30 percent having the symptoms weekly. Other symptoms of GERD include vomiting or regurgitation, difficulty swallowing and chronic coughing or wheezing.
What causes GERD?
When you eat, food travels from your mouth to your stomach through your esophagus. At the lower end of the esophagus is a small ring of muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). The LES acts like a one-way valve, allowing food to pass into the stomach. Normally, the LES closes immediately after swallowing to prevent your acidic stomach juices from backing up into the esophagus. GERD occurs when the LES does not function properly, allowing acid to flow back and burn the lower esophagus. This irritates and inflames the esophagus, causing heartburn and eventually may damage the esophagus.
Some people are born with a naturally weak sphincter (LES). For others, however, fatty and spicy foods, certain types of medication, smoking, drinking alcohol or changes in body position (bending over or lying down) may cause the LES to relax, causing reflux. A hiatal hernia is found in many patients who suffer from GERD. This refers to the condition in which the top part of the stomach bulges above the diaphragm and into the chest cavity. This phenomenon is thought to contribute to the development of acid reflux.
How is GERD treated?
When symptoms are first noted, simple changes in diet and over-the-counter antacids can reduce how often and how harsh your symptoms are. Losing weight, reducing or eliminating smoking and alcohol consumption, and altering eating and sleeping patterns can also help.
If symptoms persist after these life style changes, drug therapy may be required. Antacids neutralize stomach acids and over-the-counter medications reduce the amount of stomach acid produced. Both may be effective in relieving symptoms. Prescription drugs may be more effective in healing irritation of the esophagus and relieving symptoms. This therapy needs to be discussed with your primary care provider and your surgeon.
Surgical treatment of GERD
Patients who continue to suffer with symptoms despite lifestyle changes and medications or those who concerned with a lifetime of medication and its potential side effects, may consider minimally invasive surgical treatment for GERD.
Long-Lasting & Minimally Invasive Surgical Treatment for GERD
Our board-certified, fellowship-trained general surgeons have several options for the minimally invasive surgical treatment of GERD (gastroesophogeal reflux disease), including:
- LINX Reflux Management System –LINX is a flexible ring of small magnets (about the size of a quarter) that is placed around the LES during a minimally invasive laparoscopic procedure. The magnets help the weak LES to open it should (when swallowing food) and close when it should, preventing reflux. Linx requires no permanent changes to the anatomy.
- Laparoscopic Nissen fundoplication – This minimally invasive laparoscopic procedure is an anti-reflux surgery that involves fixing your hiatal hernia, if present, and wrapping the top part of the stomach around the end of the esophagus (like a hot dog in a bun) to reinforce the lower esophageal sphincter.
Surgical treatment of GERD is a safe and effective option for many patients with proven benefits:
- Eliminate the need for heartburn medications
- Restore the ability to eat your favorite foods again
- 90% of patients are remain symptom free 10 years after surgery
- Minimally invasive procedures have short recovery times and quick return to work
If you’d like to solve reflux for good, contact us at 908-481-1270 or by filling our Contact Us form to schedule an appointment to discuss your options with a New Jersey Bariatric Center surgeon.