You’ve tried everything. You’ve given up alcohol, fried foods and chocolate. You’ve taken over-the-counter antacids then moved on to prescription medication. You’ve lost weight, quit smoking and elevated the head of your bed.
And still, you feel it. That burning sensation in your chest and a sour taste in your mouth. When it’s really bad, you even have trouble swallowing. Reflux happens when your stomach contents come back up into your esophagus causing heartburn. When the condition is long-lasting and serious, it’s called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
So the question is, are you ready to consider surgery to treat your GERD?
What is GERD Surgery?
Surgery for GERD, called fundoplication surgery, involves wrapping the upper curve of the stomach (the fundus) around the esophagus and sewing it into place so that the lower portion of the esophagus passes through a small tunnel of stomach muscle. The result is that the valve between the esophagus and stomach is strengthened. That helps stop acid from backing up into the esophagus, which allows the esophagus to heal. The surgery can be done through either the abdomen or the chest.
When fundoplication surgery is successful, it may end the need for long-term treatment with medicine. But there are risks — and the surgery does not always alleviate symptoms. The most common complications following surgery are bloating, increased gas and difficulty swallowing (which usually goes away within three months after surgery). There are also the risks that come with any surgery, such as infection and the risks of anesthesia. The surgery cannot be reversed.
Symptoms After GERD Surgery
Let’s talk numbers: According to a review by the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, the surgery is successful in 80% to 90% of patients. But 10% to 20% of patients continue to have symptoms. Of these, some 3% to 6% require a second surgery. Second surgeries are usually less successful.
How do you know if surgery for GERD is right for you? The best place to begin is by having a conversation with your doctor. Here are a few questions to ask:
- Is acid reflux the cause of my problems? Could my symptoms be caused by another condition?
- Have I tried all of the non-surgical treatments for GERD?
- Would weight loss improve my GERD?
- Do I have any medical conditions that could complicate surgery?
- What can I expect the course of my GERD to be over time without surgery?
- Am I a good candidate for GERD?
Recovery From GERD Surgery
Recovery from GERD surgery depends on the type of surgery you had. If you had open surgery, which requires a large incision, you will probably be in the hospital for several days and take four to six weeks to recover. If laparoscopic surgery is done, you will likely be in the hospital for only two to three days and will face a shortened recovery time of two to three weeks. Most surgeries for GERD are done laparoscopically.
While surgery for GERD is usually successful, it’s not the best option for everyone. Contact us today to schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss the best treatment plan for you.
And if you’re looking for ways to prevent GERD or other health issues, check out our “Guide to Midlife Health Screenings” to stay ahead of any potential health problems.