Acid reflux occurs when undigested food and stomach acid come up into your esophagus. A muscle where the esophagus meets the stomach, the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), normally opens to let food pass into the stomach, then closes to hold food and digestive acids in the stomach.
When your LES weakens or relaxes at the wrong time, you develop acid reflux. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a more severe and chronic form of acid reflux.
Long-term exposure to stomach acid irritates your esophagus, causing inflammation that can lead to severe problems such as esophageal ulcers, respiratory problems, narrowing of the esophagus, motility dysfunction, and precancerous and cancerous changes.
If you have acid reflux, you may develop symptoms such as:
Mild to moderate cases of acid reflux may be treated with medications such as antacids and proton pump inhibitors. If you’re overweight, then losing weight is a first-line treatment. Acid reflux symptoms improve in direct proportion to the amount of weight you lose.
Lifestyle changes can also help.
You’ll lower your risk of acid reflux if you don’t eat for three hours before bedtime and raise the head of your bed while you sleep. You may also need to avoid foods and beverages known to trigger acid reflux, such as fatty or spicy foods, chocolate, peppermint, coffee, and tea. Alcohol, smoking cigarettes, and other tobacco uses are also common triggers of acid reflux.
Your doctor may recommend surgery when conservative treatments don’t improve your symptoms, or there are concerns about the long-term use of medications.
Traditionally, the surgical procedure used to treat acid reflux is called a Nissen fundoplication, where the top portion of your stomach is wrapped around your esophagus, strengthening the LES, helping to stop acid reflux. If a hiatal hernia is present at the time of surgery, this is repaired as part of the operation.
Obesity is often a major contributing factor to GERD, and if your doctor considers surgery for reflux, then a bariatric surgical operation such as a roux-en-y gastric bypass may be an effective, if not the preferred surgical option.
Most of the time, the surgical treatment of GERD is done using laparoscopy, a minimally invasive technique that helps minimize scarring and lessen recovery time.
Achalasia is a related condition that develops when specific nerves in your esophagus are damaged. When that happens, the esophagus can’t contract the muscles used to push food down toward the stomach. That results in severe swallowing issues and regurgitation of undigested food.
While endoscopic treatments such as dilation or injection of Botox, surgical therapy is often the most effective long-term treatment for achalasia. During this procedure, called a Heller myotomy, the LES muscle is cut so that food can get into your stomach. We typically do this procedure laparoscopically as well, minimizing hospital stay and recovery time.
Please contact both your Plan and the physician’s office for participation as this may vary at any time.