GERD occurs when stomach acid or stomach contents flow back up into the esophagus. This refluxed material irritates and damages the lining of the esophagus. When GERD occurs more than twice a week, interferes with sleep or affects quality of life, it is time to talk with a reflux specialist.
The most common symptom associated with reflux is a burning in the chest or pain. Usually this is worse at night or when lying flat. Reflux can cause many other symptoms as well:
• Chronic cough
• Frequent sinus infections
• Erosion of dental enamel
• Hoarseness or changes in voice asthma
• Sore throat
Severe, prolonged reflux can result in changes to the tissues of the esophagus and increase the risk of cancer. Esophageal pre-cancerous changes and esophageal cancer are very difficult to treat and can be lethal once they develop.
Reflux, or heartburn, is caused when the contents of the stomach come back up into the esophagus, causing inflammation and pain. The valve that normally keeps our food and digestive juices in the stomach malfunctions. The reason this happens in some people and not in others is not well understood. Diet and weight gain may contribute but most often there is no specific identifiable cause. A hiatal hernia may also contribute to the development of GERD. Fortunately this can be easily corrected as well at the time of the reflux procedure.
For many patients, lifelong medication can lessen the symptoms of their reflux. There is a small risk of side effects such as osteoporosis and reduced absorption of medications and nutrients from the digestive tract. These medications usually cost several hundred dollars per year and must be taken daily to be effective.
Surgery is an option for permanent correction of the anatomic problem causing the reflux. Small incisions and a special camera are used to create a new valve around the esophagus using the stomach itself. Usually this requires one night in the hospital and a liquid diet for a few weeks after surgery. This technique has been employed and refined for many decades and is safe and effective when performed by an experienced surgeon.
The most common post-operative characteristic is an increased sensation of needing to belch that persists for a few weeks while the body learns to adjust to the corrected anatomy. As with all procedures there are risks and not all patients are best served by a surgical repair. It is important to find a surgeon experienced in treating this disease and one that you are comfortable with before considering surgical treatment.
Surgical correction of reflux will stop the chronic inflammation of the esophagus that can lead to pre-cancerous changes in the tissue over time. It will not reverse pre-malignant changes or cancer itself once they occur.
To schedule an appointment, call 972-439-3753.