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What is GERD?

Heartburn is a very common problem, affecting up to 40% of Americans on a monthly basis. Heartburn is usually due to gastroesophageal reflux, or the regurgitation of gastric contents (usually acidic) into the esophagus.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is diagnosed when symptoms occur 3-4 times weekly or are uncontrolled, require ongoing treatment with medicines, or produce damage (or possible damage) to the esophagus or respiratory tract.

Complications of GERD include esophagitis (erosions or ulcers in the esophagus), difficulty swallowing due to strictures (scarring), Barrett’s esophagus, and esophageal cancer. Airway contamination by regurgitation can produce asthma symptoms, recurrent bronchitis, pneumonia and lung fibrosis (scarring). Many patients will experience chest pain that mimics heart disease.

Most patients can be successfully managed by modification of diet and some changes in lifestyle, in conjunction with very effective medications. Most patients requiring continued treatment with prescription medications should undergo an endoscopic examination (EGD) to make sure significant esophageal damage has not already occurred.  They can then take medications confident they are not masking important health risks.

Unfortunately, medications may not treat all of the effects of GERD, such as respiratory problems, Barrett’s esophagus or cancer. Furthermore, about half of patients will require progressively larger dosages of medication or fail to gain control of symptoms on medication alone. Some patients may simply be unhappy with treating GERD with a lifetime of medication. Others may have dangerous changes in their anatomy, such as a giant hiatal hernia, that cannot be managed with medication. In these cases, there are procedures that will effectively relieve GERD or treat the complications of GERD.

If EGD is normal—as it is in many patients with GERD—then medication is prescribed, in most cases without additional testing. If the diagnosis is in doubt or other procedures are being considered, esophageal function testing will help in making a conclusive diagnosis and allow planning of those procedures. Occasionally, an unsuspected finding will change the recommended procedure.

Laparoscopic fundoplication can effectively control GERD. Our surgeons are expert in this field, with the experience of hundreds of successful surgeries for GERD and hiatal hernia repair.  Laparoscopic magnetic sphincter augmentation - the LINX procedure - offers control of GERD by use of a special implant.  Morbidly obese patients may, in some cases, be recommended for a bariatric procedure to control their reflux and treat dangerous weight gain.

Our surgeons are experts in the management of GERD and can provide complete evaluation and treatment.

Learn the Symptoms

Symptoms of GERD include:

  • Hoarseness or sore throat
  • Heartburn
  • Chest pain
  • Regurgitation
  • Frequent swallowing
  • Asthma or asthma-like symptoms
  • Persistent cough
  • Sleep disruption
  • Bloating
  • Excessive clearing of the throat
  • Intolerance of certain foods
  • Dental erosions or therapy-resistant gum disease or inflammation