Are You A Candidate for Acid Reflux Surgery?

Heartburn strikes many people from time to time. Occasional overindulgence causes the condition to flare up, then it could be months or years before it returns. Over-the-counter antacids are often the only treatment needed.

However, there are some who suffer from heartburn due to acid reflux on a chronic basis, perhaps as often as a few times every week. Not only do they cope with regular discomfort, the reflux of stomach acids into the lower esophagus can cause serious tissue damage. When heartburn turns chronic, it’s called gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. Fortunately, severe cases of GERD can be treated well with minimally invasive surgical techniques, when more conservative treatment proves unsuccessful.  

The causes of GERD

The primary reason for GERD symptoms is the failure of the esophageal sphincter, a band of muscle around the bottom of the esophagus that lets food pass while keeping stomach contents from flowing back up. When the sphincter weakens or relaxes irregularly, a backwash of stomach acid can leave the stomach, causing the burning sensation associated with heartburn.

You may be more at risk of developing GERD if you’re overweight or pregnant. A hiatal hernia may also cause GERD symptoms. This is when the top portion of the stomach bulges up through the diaphragm, which may interfere with the normal operation of the esophageal sphincter. Connective tissue disorders may also compromise the sphincter, such as scleroderma, as can delayed emptying of stomach contents.

Certain conditions can aggravate sphincter failure. Some of these factors include:

Conservative treatment of GERD

Before you’re considered for reflux surgery, more conservative treatments must prove ineffective at controlling your symptoms. Lifestyle changes are generally part of such treatment. Altering your diet and eating habits can often reduce the severity of your symptoms, even if reflux continues.

The same is true of acid-suppressing medications. The number of reflux incidents won’t change, but the level of acidity is reduced, causing less burning when reflux does occur. The shortfall of conservative approaches to GERD is that these treat the symptoms of the condition, not the cause.

Surgical solutions for reflux

As with most conditions, surgery is generally a last resort, since any surgery carries some risk. However, the procedures needed to correct failures of the lower esophageal sphincter have proven good candidates for laparoscopic techniques, a specialty of the doctors at Rockwall Surgical Specialists. Laparoscopic surgery is minimally invasive. Cameras and surgical tools enter through small keyhole incisions rather than long, open cuts. This minimizes damage to surrounding tissue and speeds recovery time.

The procedures necessary for reflux surgery depend on your condition, and there are several approaches to augment the function of the esophageal sphincter. If you have a hiatal hernia, for example, your surgeon can repair it during sphincter surgery. Depending on the procedure and the severity of your GERD, success rates vary, but typically, most patients undergoing surgery find they can reduce or discontinue acid-suppressing medications.

If you’re living with GERD symptoms, call or click to arrange a consultation with Rockwall Surgical Specialists today.

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