Heartburn / GERD Treatment

Acid Reflux / GERD Surgery New Jersey

Occasional heartburn or indigestion, known as Gastro-Esophageal Reflux is very common. It can occur as a result of eating the wrong foods at the wrong time and many other reasons as well. However, millions of Americans suffer from the symptoms of GERD, also known as Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease or chronic acid reflux. This can be loosely classified as when they experience acid reflux at least twice a week for several weeks.

Acid reflux, which includes heartburn symptoms, can be very painful and in some cases debilitating. Further, this disease can have serious follow-up effects such as erosion of the esophageal lining and ultimately an increased chance of esophageal cancer.

What is GERD?

Stomach acid is a key component of digestion. Without it, our stomachs could not break down the food we consume to allow nutrients to be absorbed into the blood stream. However, stomach acid is extremely corrosive in the esophagus.

GERD or acid reflux occurs when the acidic content of the stomach start to push up into the esophagus. This is usually caused by weakness in the muscle known as the LES or Lower Esophageal Sphincter. Normally, the sphincter acts as a one-way valve. The LES will close immediately after allowing food into the stomach, stopping any of the stomach contents from pushing back up the esophageal tract. When the LES malfunctions however, the acidic contents of the stomach can begin to push back into the esophagus, causing serious discomfort and pain.

Virtually all of us have experienced acid reflux to one degree or other. However this does not mean that GERD is the underlying reason. A visit with your medical team can help establish a diagnosis and treatment plan.

Beyond the discomfort of acid reflux, there are potentially serious long-term problems that accompany it. That’s why you should see your doctor if you believe you could have GERD.

Causes of GERD

The basic cause of GERD or acid reflux revolves around a defect in the LES or Lower Esophageal Sphincter. This valve that separates the esophagus from the stomach allows food to enter the stomach but should prevent digestive juices from flowing the wrong way.

While we don’t know exactly what causes the LES to malfunction, there are several known risk factors for developing GERD. These can include:

  • Congenital weakness of the LES (From Birth)
  • Consuming very spicy foods on a regular basis
  • Consuming fatty foods on a regular basis
  • Smoking
  • Consuming alcohol
  • Certain medications including NSAIDs (Ibuprofen, Naproxen, etc.)
  • Obesity

Remember that temporary, mild heartburn is often quite normal and does not necessarily mean that you have GERD. You should contact your doctor if the acid reflux becomes significant or if conservative treatment options have not helped.

Signs and Symptoms of GERD or Acid Reflux

Every case of GERD or chronic acid reflux is unique and as such the signs and symptoms may be quite different. For example, some patients will have heartburn and other will not. Only an evaluation by a qualified medical professional can offer a definitive diagnosis of gastro-esophageal reflux disease versus occasional acid reflux or another condition. Patients can however be on the lookout for the most common signs of acid reflux which include:

  • Heartburn – a burning sensation in the chest
  • Sore throat or hoarseness
  • Acidic taste in the mouth
  • Dental discoloration or corrosion
  • Bad breath
  • Chronic dry cough

GERD and acid reflux is also very common in infants and children. It can cause serious discomfort in the form of spitting up, vomiting and coughing, which can interfere with growth and eating patterns.

These are only a few of the possible symptoms and signs of gastro-esophageal reflux disease. Indeed, some of the symptoms of GERD are also shared with other diseases and conditions. For example heartburn does not necessarily present with a burning sensation. Often, it is associated with pain and tightness in chest. If you experience any tightening of the chest or chest pain, contact emergency medical help – dial 911 – right away.

Treatment for GERD or Acid Reflux

There are several treatment options for acid reflux or GERD. These treatments can be non-surgical or surgical. The treatment option that is best for you will largely rest on a mutual decision between you and your physician or surgeon. To understand your treatment options, feel free to browse below and then schedule a consultation with our office to see if surgery may be the right option for you.

Non-Surgical GERD Treatment

The initial treatment for acid reflux is often lifestyle change. There are many elective lifestyle factors that can reduce the incidence of acid reflux. These include:

  • Losing weight
  • Avoiding spicy and fatty foods
  • Sleeping on an incline
  • Wearing looser clothes
  • Stop smoking and drinking alcohol
  • Eat at least three hours before bedtime

The first course of medical treatment is often medication, which includes proton pump inhibitors and H2 blockers. These medications are often effective in the short-term; however they do not address the underlying condition of a faulty Lower Esophageal Sphincter.

Surgical Treatment for GERD

Some cases of GERD do not respond to non-invasive treatments or medication.  A more permanent option for the elimination or improvement of acid reflux is surgery. While more invasive than medication, surgery is long-lasting, so the erosion of the esophagus can be halted and damage can start to be reversed.

Further, for those who have not seen the degree of relief that they expect from medication, or whose GERD is progressively worsening, surgery may be ideal. Surgery eliminates the potential of medication side-effects and it is a one-time solution. Medications, of course, must be taken in perpetuity for the relief to be felt – they can also lose their effectiveness over time.

Acid reflux surgery is most often performed in a laparoscopic manner, meaning that patients will usually experience reduced pain, faster recovery and a shorter hospital stay. Endoscopic procedures – performed through the mouth rather than the skin – to repair the cause of GERD can also be employed with great success. However, minimally invasive reflux surgery is not appropriate for every patient and does have risks similar to other surgical procedures.

Anyone interested in a surgical procedure to correct acid reflux should consult with a qualified surgeon such as those at Advanced Surgical Associates to understand the benefits and risks of the minimally invasive surgery for GERD or Acid Reflux.

Further Reading

Advanced Surgical Associates is one of the first exclusively surgical groups practicing in Union County New Jersey. And that is just the first of many firsts for ASA. For over 40 years, we have pioneered breakthrough surgical patient care in North Jersey in both general and weight loss surgery. ASA also offers gastric bypass, gastric sleeve and gastric banding to those suffering from obesity in New Jersey.
© 2020, Advanced Surgical Associates, Bariatric & General Surgery, Springfield, New Jersey