For some acid reflux and GERD sufferers, surgery is an option that is carefully considered with your doctor after all other possible solutions have failed to remedy the reflux. It’s not a decision that’s taken lightly. As with any surgery, there are risks involved and, unfortunately, the most commonly used surgical procedure doesn’t guarantee long-term results.
Currently, the most popular surgery for GERD is a Nissen fundoplication. In this procedure, the upper portion of the stomach is wrapped around the esophagus and sewn into place. The result is that the lower portion of the esophagus passes through a small tunnel of stomach muscle. This helps to stop stomach acid from getting back into the esophagus as the valve between the esophagus and stomach (lower esophageal sphincter or LES) is made stronger. The absence of acid helps the esophagus to heal from previous damage caused by repetitive acid exposure. The surgery is either performed through a large incision or laparoscopically.
What is the recovery time following surgery?
Depending on how the surgery is performed, you’ll be in the hospital anywhere from two days to several days. Most people go back to work between a couple weeks and six weeks following their operation depending on the method of surgery, the type of employment they have, and how well the recovery is going. Some people bounce back quickly while others find their bodies need more time to heal.
After surgery, you may need to change how you eat. Your diet may consist mostly of soft foods until your body recovers. You may find that food needs to be chewed more thoroughly and that you need to eat more slowly in order to give food enough time to move down the esophagus.
Results of surgery
A positive outcome of fundoplication surgery is that the esophagus heals without the daily assault of stomach acid. While most people initially see an improvement in GERD, almost half of the patients either had symptoms return, had esophagitis (inflammation of the esophagus), required medication for symptoms or needed another operation after seven years.
For some, the side effects of surgery are as troublesome as GERD. There can be bloating caused by gas buildup, swallowing problems and internal pain where the surgery was performed. It’s impossible to predict who will have complications and the fundoplication procedure cannot be reversed.
Like with many surgical solutions, alternative procedures are evolving and becoming more readily available. For example, the new LINX Reflux Management System is gaining attention as the procedure is less invasive and takes as little as 25 minutes. A device is implanted into the lower end of the esophagus that consists of weakly magnetized beads held in a ring on titanium wire. The beads separate to allow food and drinks to move into the stomach and then contract to keep stomach acid out of the esophagus. The results, based on clinical trials, have been positive with more than half of the patients experiencing no symptoms after six months. However, as with most surgeries, there are possible side effects as 15% reported feeling something when they swallow and 5% have difficulty swallowing once a day, six months following the procedure.
What to consider before surgery
While surgery can be successful for some in resolving acid reflux, for others the solution is only temporary or creates other unpleasant symptoms. That’s why it’s important to give lifestyle changes a fair chance. Many people have found relief simply by sleeping on an incline. In fact, of all the possible lifestyle changes, this is one of two that’s supported by clinical data (the other being weight loss).
But don’t just take it from us – sometimes it helps to listen to others who are going through a similar experience. We are fortunate to have heard from acid reflux/GERD sufferers who have used our incline system and have had real results. Here are a few of their stories:
- "Even when I was taking Ranitidine every day, I was still getting lots of reflux. After using MedCline for three nights my reflux just went away and hasn’t come back." Bill C. Age 66, California, Throat Cancer Survivor
- "I have not felt this good in ages. MedCline is magic!" Kelt M. Age 44, Michigan
- "Excellent product! MedCline has dramatically reduced my nighttime symptoms. In the three weeks I’ve been using it, I’ve been able to reduce the use of my prescription GERD medication by more than half and I’m expecting to soon be able to eliminate it entirely." Mark K., DDS Age 74, California
- "I love my MedCline! I’ve only taken Zantac once since I began using it. When I eat foods that I know I shouldn’t, it lets me sleep without any reflux. It seems to be lessening the frequency of my nighttime flare ups as well." Amber Y. Age 31, Wyoming
- "MedCline is an amazing product. It got rid of my pregnancy GERD symptoms and helped to support my back and stomach so I could finally get a good night’s sleep." Adele W. Age 34, California
- "I have been waking up almost every other night since I was sixteen with acid reflux. In the first two months of using MedCline, I only woke up once." Austin L. Age 20, Idaho
We feel strongly that MedCline can help with your acid reflux symptoms. That’s why we offer a 60-day money back guarantee. And while we don’t want to dissuade you from other treatments, we do want you to be informed and try all possible remedies before seeking out surgery.
When you are deciding between surgery and other approaches to relieving your acid reflux, consult your doctor and consider all the costs, risks, and potential complications of the surgery. Then think about the same with medications and lifestyle changes and decide which approach – or which combination of treatments – makes the most sense for you.
1. Heartburn/GERD Health Center, Fundoplication Surgery for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), http://www.webmd.com/heartburn-gerd/fundoplication... (August 5th, 2010)
2 Lucas, Christine. “Savannah doctor pioneers surgical treatment for severe acid reflux” http://savannahnow.com/accent/2013-01-11/savannah-doctor-pioneers-surgical-treatment-severe-acid-reflux#.UPmKcqWjTzI (January 12, 2013)
3. Khan BA, et al. Effect of bed head elevation during sleep in symptomatic patients of nocturnal gastroesophageal reflux. J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2012 Jun;27(6):1078-82.