Find Out Whether You Need GERD Surgery – Pros and Cons
It happens one night. You wake up in the middle of the night with a choking feeling and burning chest pain. You thought it was the steak and potatoes you had that night, so you vowed to keep it light from then on. Then it happened again, and for the next few weeks you suffer from acid reflux, which eventually lasts for months.
You may think you have a simple case of acid reflux; however, it could be GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease, which could be treated by GERD surgery.
If you’re like most people, you are probably asking yourself the following questions: What is GERD? How does it differ from acid reflux? What are the treatments available for this condition? Should you decide to go for a surgical procedure, and if so, what are the risks and benefits that come with it?
All of these concerns will be answered as you go through this post.
1. Before Anything, Get to Know Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or GERD
First, it is important to understand what GERD is all about to have a better understanding of the GERD surgery.
Gastroesophageal covers the esophagus and stomach. On the other hand, reflux means to return or to flow back. Therefore, gastroesophageal reflux disease is a type of disease that returns your stomach’s contents back into your esophagus. This is because the lower esophageal sphincter or LES relaxes or weakens, and allows the “return” of stomach’s acid content t flow.
Symptoms of GERD include the following:
- Heartburn or burning sensations in your lower chest and middle of upper abdomen
- Regurgitation of fluid into your esophagus
- Difficulty in swallowing or dysphagia
Aside from these common symptoms, you might also experience extra esophageal symptoms, such as the following:
- Sore throat
- Hoarseness of voice
- Chronic cough
Take note of these symptoms to help you differentiate whether what you are experiencing is acid reflux or the more serious GERD. If you are still confused about GERD, don’t worry. You will learn more about it in the next section.
2. GERD Vs. Acid Reflux: Determining the Differences Between the Two
Here’s the thing: GERD and acid reflux are two concepts that are often used interchangeably. It turns out that these two are different from each other.
Also known as gastroesophageal reflux, acid reflux refers to the backward flow of stomach acid into your esophagus. When this happens, you could feel one or both of these symptoms:
- Burning sensations in your chest or heartburn
- Taste regurgitated food or sour liquid
If you experienced this once or twice in a few months, then there is a higher possibility that it is acid reflux. However, there is a chance that this condition could progress into GERD or a severe form of acid reflux. If you experience any of the acid reflux symptoms mentioned and coupled with extra esophageal symptoms, then it could be a sign of GERD.
What are your treatment options? Read the next section to find out.
3. Medications Available Before You Say Yes to GERD Surgery
Your doctor will not automatically recommend GERD surgery options to treat this condition. After all, there are medications available that could help with GERD symptoms.
These medications include:
- Proton pump inhibitors or PPIs
- Histamine H2-receptor blockers
Keep in mind that these medications do not stop reflux from happening; however, they are effective in reducing the acid amounts in the gastric fluid, which are enough to provide relief against GERD symptoms. You can also combine any of these medications with lifestyle changes, which will be discussed further towards the end of this article.
In severe cases, your doctor may require surgery, which you will learn more about below.
4. When to Consider Surgery to Treat Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
Keep in mind that surgery for GERD is your last resort. Your doctor will recommend diet and lifestyle changes, and medications to manage the symptoms. In case you are unable to experience relief from these symptoms, your doctor could also suggest long-term medications.
However, there are cases that require surgery. Here factors your doctor will look into that warrant surgical procedure:
- Existence of serious GERD complications
- Inflammation of the esophagus
- Avoidance of long-term medications
- Medications and lifestyle changes no longer provide relief from GERD symptoms
There are varieties of GERD surgery options available to help you relieve symptoms and manage complications.
Get to know the different options you can avail of to treat GERD below.
5. Fundoplication: The Standard Surgical Treatment for GERD
Fundoplication is the common standard treatment for GERD. In this procedure, GERD surgeons make a long incision in your stomach to access your esophagus, also known as the traditional method. Thereafter, they wrap the upper part of your stomach around the outside of the lower esophagus. This tightens and reinforces your LES to prevent regurgitation.
There is another procedure to be able to perform this procedure. Instead of making a long incision, your surgeon can perform laparoscopic anti-reflux surgery wherein it involves smaller incisions. At the same time, your surgeon uses miniaturized instruments, thereby making the procedure less invasive. This particular GERD surgery reduces recovery time to two to three weeks.
Fundoplication and Hiatal Hernia: Additional Treatment Techniques
In case you have hiatal hernia, there will be additional surgical steps to reduce acid reflux. Here’s what happens:
- The contents of your stomach or hernia sac will be pulled from your chest.
- The opening of the diaphragm where the esophagus passes from your chest and into the abdomen will be sutured. This way, the stomach remains within your abdomen.
In case you are wondering, the success rate for GERD surgery, especially this type, is high. Just don’t forget to prepare at least $9,000 for the traditional fundoplication or at least $4,500 in case you decided to go for the laparoscopic procedure. Nevertheless, this doesn’t include other expenses such as laboratory fees, transportation expenses, and consultation among others.
However, some GERD surgeons might even charge between $12,000 and $20,000 for the procedure alone so keep your pocket and piggy bank prepared – unless you have a medical insurance plan that will cover it.
6. Transoral Incisionless Fundoplication: When Open Fundoplication is Not Appropriate
Fundoplication may be the most recommended GERD surgery options, but this doesn’t mean it could work for everyone. In case the first surgical option, this is highly recommended for you.
Transoral Incisionless Fundoplication or TIF creates a barrier between your stomach and esophagus to prevent reflux of stomach acid. From the name itself, this procedure doesn’t need incisions. You will use EsophyX, a device inserted in your mouth to create folds in the esophagus and form a new valve.
Aside from this, TIF could help alleviate the symptoms of GERD and acid reflux in short term. Since it is also a fairly new procedure, experts still need to look into the long-term effects of this procedure to GERD patients.
In other words, if you don’t want to take medications for a long time and prefer a less invasive procedure, then TIF is your best option; however, this works best if your GERD is still at its early stage.
Wait, there’s more. Keep reading because there are other GERD surgery options available for you, so make sure you stick around.
7. New Kid on the Block: Stretta Procedure to Get Relief from GERD Symptoms
If there is anything you should be thankful for when it comes to the medical society, it’s the fact that they constantly look for ways to make people’s lives easier by developing techniques that address any medical condition. One of this is stretta, a procedure is another treatment option you can try to eliminate the symptoms of GERD.
In this procedure, your surgeon uses an endoscope or a thin, flexible tube to thread into your esophagus. An electrode at the end of the tube will heat your esophageal tissues to create small cuts to form scar tissues in the esophagus. The scars will serve as a blockage against refluxed acid and at the same time, strengthens the surrounding muscles in this area.
Compared to fundoplication, stretta procedure is more budget-friendly at $2,000 to $3,000.
Here’s the catch: this procedure is still new, so some doctors may not recommend it yet. At the same time, the long-term effects are still unknown, which means you have to be careful before you go through this procedure.
That’s’ not all. Your insurance company may not pay for the procedure since it may consider the procedure experimental. Keep your wallet ready.
8. Say Hello to the Bard EndoCinch Procedure as Another Treatment Option for Your Condition
Fundoplication and going for the laparoscopic procedure are effective in treating GERD and helping you say goodbye to it. Apparently, there are few more options available for you. One of them is Bard EndoCinch Procedure.
Just like the Stretta procedure, the Bard EndoCinch procedure uses an endoscope to create stitches in the lower esophageal sphincter or LES. These stitches will form pleats, thereby strengthening the LES.
Unlike fundoplication, this GERD surgery option is not a common option among GERD patients. Consequently, this procedure is not covered by all insurance carriers, which means you have to pay for it using your hard-earned money. Still, this might be a good treatment option for you, especially if you don’t respond well to drugs or you are not a good candidate for GERD surgery options.
If you plan to go for this procedure, make sure to discuss this with your doctor extensively and weigh your treatment options.
There is one more surgical treatment option available for you. Read the next section to find out what it is.
9. LINX Reflux Management System: Another New Procedure to Treat GERD
Sometime in March 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a device for the treatment of GERD. This device is called LINX, a permanent implant that consists of small and flexible band of titanium beads wherein each bead contains a magnet. Since the beads are magnetized, they keep the opening of the stomach and esophagus closed and temporarily opens when food needs to pass through.
This band of beads is placed on the outside of the esophagus. The magnet from the beads keeps your lower esophageal sphincter closed to prevent the contents from your stomach to move back up to your esophagus. This minimizes acid reflux and allows food to pass through normally.
LINX is a minimally invasive procedure; hence, your recovery time is shorter compared to most GERD surgery recovery times. In fact, you can get back to your normal diet within 24 hours after the procedure. You might experience difficulty since it will take 10 to 15 days before you get used to a functioning LES.
In case you are wondering about the cost, you might have to shell out at least $5,000 for the device, which is still cheaper than fundoplication. Since LINX is a new procedure, keep in mind that so far, there are only few physicians performing this procedure.
10. Making Your Best Treatment Decision: Understanding the Pros and Cons of GERD Surgery
Given the available treatments to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease, it is now time to weigh your options and decide whether surgical procedure is your best bet.
Below are the advantages and disadvantages of going through this procedure to help you decide better:
- Avoids intake of long-term medications
- Prevents future complications like inflammation of the esophagus
- Provides instant and immediate relief from the symptoms brought by GERD.
- Recovery time differs according to the type of GERD surgery you availed
- GERD surgery cost can be expensive
- May not be covered by your insurance policy
You already know what GERD surgery is and by now, you are able to gauge whether this is the right treatment for you. You also read GERD surgery reviews to help you weight your options. While this treatment option could address this digestive condition, the biggest hurdle you have to face now is the budget.
11. GERD Surgery Side Effects: Weigh Your Options Before Choosing a GERD Treatment
Aside from the pros and cons of going through any of the GERD surgery options, it is also important to know what the side effects are. Without a doubt, any of the surgery options could minimize the symptoms and provide relief. The question now is at what cost?
Below are the side effects of GERD surgery:
- Difficulty in burping
- Abdominal bloating
- Feelings of distention in your stomach
- Inability to vomit
- Complications from anesthesia
In rare cases, your chosen GERD surgery option could lead to any of the following side effects:
- Injury to nearby organs, such as your stomach, liver, diaphragm and esophagus
- Long-lasting dysphagia or difficulty swallowing
It is important that you discuss this factor with your doctor and ask him for immediate relief. Consequently, pay attention to the effects of your chosen surgical option. If you noticed something unusual and persistent, contact your doctor immediately.
12. Your Journey Towards Recovery After GERD Surgery
After surgery, you might be excited to get back to your normal routine, and being able to eat whatever you want without worrying about regurgitation or heart burn.
The truth is, your recovery is dependent on whether you went for the traditional surgery or the laparoscopic type. Between the two, laparoscopic GERD surgery has a faster recovery time, which requires you a maximum of three days in the hospital and a one-week rest.
On the other hand, traditional GERD surgery may take a longer time to recover. You might have to stay in the hospital for a week, and another six weeks for rest and recovery before you are able to get back to your normal routine.
During the recovery process, pay attention and follow your doctor’s instructions to minimize complications in the future, or at least few days after the procedure.
Don’t worry. There are other treatment options you can try before resorting to this surgical solution. The succeeding sections will discuss your alternative treatment options to help you say goodbye to GERD.
13. Your First Line of Defense: Standard Treatments for GERD
Going through fundoplication surgery could help treat GERD. Before you go through this procedure, consider this option first: lifestyle changes.
Lifestyle changes could help improve the symptoms of GERD. This includes:
- Losing weight
- Eating smaller meals
- Quitting smoking and alcohol
- Shifting your diet to low-fat
- Avoiding tight clothes or tight belts
These simple lifestyle techniques could help minimize your symptoms and eventually make this condition manageable and bearable. Aside from lifestyle changes, did you know that your eating habits could also help you in managing GERD? Read the next section to find out more about this.
14. Watch What and How You Eat to Suppress the Symptoms of GERD
Gastroesophageal reflux disease happens because your stomach and esophagus doesn’t function properly. Following this principle, you have to watch what you eat and pay attention to your manner of eating to prevent these two organs from acting up. This is also the reason why it is important to keep a food diary to help you take note of the foods that could trigger the symptoms.
In line with this, it follows that what you eat and how you eat are crucial in managing GERD symptoms.
Here are common GERD-triggers you should avoid:
- Spicy foods
- Caffeinated and carbonated drinks
- Onion and garlic
- Citrus fruits
- Tomatoes and other tomato products
- Fried and fatty foods
- Anything mint
Apart from watching what you eat, how you eat could also tell whether the symptoms will make an appearance on that day. Change your eating habits through the following techniques:
- Eat smaller portions, since they are easier for your stomach to digest.
- Stop eating before you get too full.
- Do not eat at least two to three hours before your scheduled sleep.
- Go for smaller, more frequent meals.
You can also try the next technique in conjunction with lifestyle changes and eating habits.
15. Acupuncture: A Traditional Chinese Medicine That Stimulates Healing
Have you tried acupuncture? If not, perhaps now is the right time to consider it, especially when GERD symptoms are often paying a visit.
This traditional Chinese medicine dates back to 4,000 years ago. It uses small needles to re-balance the energy flow in your body and stimulates healing. This ancient medical procedure also reduces the temporary lower esophageal relaxations, which promotes backflow of acid.
You can also consider electroacupuncture or EA wherein electric current are used along with the needles. This variation helps increase the strength of your lower esophageal sphincter or LES, thereby minimizing the flow of stomach acid into your esophagus.
Here’s the catch: there are limited research about the effects of acupuncture as a treatment for GERD. Nonetheless, it won’t hurt if you give this treatment option a try, don’t you think?
16. Maintaining a Positive Outlook Despite Your Condition
GERD may be a challenging medical condition that could take over your life, especially if left untreated. Still, this doesn’t mean you cannot do anything about it. Thankfully, there are options available at your disposal to help you correct your condition and eventually say goodbye to it permanently.
Regardless of your chosen method, remember this: there is hope for people suffering from GERD.
It is important to maintain a positive outlook, especially if you went through the time-and-tested procedure of eliminating GERD. The newer methods may work, although it is best to wait for definitive studies that prove its effectiveness in addressing the symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease.
The bottom line is to weight your options. With the help of your doctor and even reading GERD surgery reviews, you will be able to determine the right treatment for you.
Last Reminders About Seeking Treatment for Your GERD
You have two options in treating GERD: either you’ll go for the natural method and stick to healthy lifestyle changes, or you can seek treatment according to GERD surgery options available. After all, seeking treatment is non-negotiable to avoid further complications in the future. Regardless of your choice, it is important to discuss this with your doctor thoroughly.
Before paying for anything, discuss about the procedure, preparations involved, side effects, recovery, and more importantly, the cost. Evaluate your options based on these factors and seek recommendation from your doctor. The important thing is to choose a GERD surgery option according to your needs.