Heartburn is something that we all experience from time to time. Many of us even take Prilosec or a similar heartburn medication to prevent it. For those occasional sufferers, the idea of surgery to combat heartburn (also known as; pyrosis, acid indigestion, acid reflux, Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease or GERD) seems like overkill. I couldn’t agree more that surgery should not be considered for the majority of heartburn sufferers.
However, there’s another, smaller group of patients who suffer from chronic heartburn. For these patients, heartburn is a cause of daily discomfort, sleepless nights and a constant dependence on acid reflux medication. These patients frequently sleep propped up on pillows, yet still wake in the middle of the night with chest pain and burning. Many suffer from recurrent episodes of chronic sinusitis and even asthma from the irritation of the sinuses and lungs by the acid. Additionally, reports of a briny, vomit like taste in the back of your throat, described as “waterbrash,” are common and very uncomfortable.
I see many of these patients in my office who have been searching for years for some form of heartburn relief. Without question, the gold standard treatment for GERD is a surgery referred to as a Nissen Fundoplication, in which the stomach is wrapped around itself to recreate the valve between the esophagus and the stomach, blocking the reflux of acid into the esophagus. Over 90% of my patients obtain significant improvement in their symptoms after a Nissen Fundoplication and approximately 60% are able to stop taking their acid blockers completely. The immediate complications after Nissen Fundoplication are minimal and the surgery is typically well tolerated, requiring a week off of work. All patients develop some difficulty swallowing after the surgery and are placed on a soft diet for four weeks after the surgery. Approximately 10% will develop difficulty swallowing that lasts longer than a month, however this almost always resolves after three months.
Before proceeding with a Nissen Fundoplication for chronic heartburn, all patients are evaluated with an upper endoscopy procedure and an upper GI x-ray. Depending on your symptoms more sophisticated testing including pH evaluation of the esophagus and/or pressure measurement of your swallowing function may be performed. To learn more about the treatment for Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease, contact my office at (248) 413-2670 for an appointment.