What is Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), commonly known as heartburn or acid reflux, is a digestive disorder characterized by a burning sensation in the chest, stomach or throat.

GERD is caused when the valve between the esophagus and the stomach does not maintain its one-way flow, allowing partially digested food and acid to move back up into the esophagus.

Over time, reflux backwash can cause hoarseness, sleeping difficulties and damage to the esophagus due to chronic inflammation. Reflux can also place sufferers at an increased risk for a pre-cancerous condition known as Barrett’s esophagus, and left untreated, GERD increases the risk of esophageal cancer.

Causes of GERD

Normally, the esophageal sphincter opens to allow the passage of food and then closes to keep it in the stomach. When the muscle relaxes too often, or for too long, acid refluxes back into the esophagus causing heartburn. GERD can develop even when there is no hiatus hernia present, but when a person has a hiatus hernia, GERD symptoms tend to be worse and less likely to respond to medication. Certain lifestyle factors can worsen the condition, including:

  • Being overweight
  • Overeating
  • Consuming certain foods, such as citrus, peppermint, chocolate, fatty foods and spicy foods
  • Excessive intake of caffeine and alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs) drugs, such as aspirin and ibuprofen 

How GERD Surgery Works

Guthrie surgeons offer a procedure to correct GERD. The goal of the operation is to restore one-way function of the valve between the esophagus and the stomach and repair the hiatal hernia. This is accomplished by wrapping the top portion of the stomach around the esophagus and sewing it in place, mimicking the function of the weakened valve.

Benefits of Minimally Invasive Surgery

At Guthrie, we offer GERD surgery (known as Nissen fundoplication) as a minimally invasive surgery, instead of traditional open surgery. Minimally invasive surgery is performed through several tiny incisions made in your abdomen. A video camera and long, slender surgical instruments are inserted through these small incisions to perform the surgery. Minimally invasive surgery offers significant benefits, including:

  • Smaller incisions
  • Reduced blood loss
  • Less pain following the procedure
  • Less time in the hospital
  • A faster recovery

Candidates for GERD Surgery or Endoscopic Therapy

While over-the-counter and prescription acid-reducing medications can mask the discomfort of reflux, the condition does worsen over time. If you experience chronic or daily reflux, surgery may become necessary. Endoscopic therapy may also be an option. If you have symptoms of GERD, despite having made lifestyle modifications and use the strongest anti-reflux medications available, you might be a candidate for surgery or endoscopic therapy. 

Individual circumstances may vary, however potential factors for advanced GERD treatment success, can include:

  • Avoiding smoking
  • Following a healthy diet
  • Avoiding carbonated beverages
  • Having a BMI of 34 or under

Gastroesophageal Reflux Surgery at Guthrie Sayre

Dr. Robert D FanelliDr. Robert Fanelli sees patients at Guthrie Sayre, performing all necessary diagnostics and managing patient care through all available endoscopic and minimally invasive surgical procedures as a nationally recognized expert in foregut surgery within Guthrie’s Heartburn Clinic.

He completed his residency at Michigan State University in Lansing and is fellowship-trained in Advanced Surgical Endoscopy/Laparoscopic Surgery at Case Western Reserve University, Mount Sinai Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio, and in Endoscopic Ultrasound from the University of Rochester in Rochester, N.Y.

Request an Appointment

To schedule an evaluation, please call Guthrie General Surgery at 570-887-2854.

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