Rocky Mountains Colorado

Conditions and Procedures

Treatment and Surgery for Reflux and Hiatal Hernia

hiatal hernia surgeryGastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is a condition in which stomach acid flows upward into the esophagus.  The esophagus does not have the protective lining of the stomach and can be burned by the acid.  This causes symptoms ranging from mild indigestion to severe chest and abdominal pain.  Long-term exposure of the esophagus to stomach acid can cause scarring, strictures and even pre-cancerous lesions called “Barrett’s Esophagus.”

Treating severe reflux is generally done with lifestyle changes and medications that block acid production in your stomach.  Losing weight, avoiding eating late at night, avoiding spicy/fatty foods, avoiding caffeine and alcohol and avoiding laying down soon after meals may be enough to control your symptoms.  Medications are also highly effective at controlling symptoms.

However, some people cannot get relief with these treatments and require a surgery to tighten the valve between their esophagus and stomach.  This is called a fundoplication.  This surgery is performed laparoscopically and requires several days in the hospital after the procedure.  Many patients have difficulty swallowing temporarily after surgery and will be on a liquid diet for several weeks.  This surgery should only be considered when all non-surgical solutions fail to improve symptoms.  

Hiatal Hernia:  Many patients have severe reflux due to a hiatal hernia.  This is a different type of hernia that is not visible to you or your doctor on physical exam. In a hiatal hernia, the opening in your diaphragm through which your esophagus enters your abdomen becomes enlarged. This allows your stomach to slip from your abdomen into your chest. Typically the symptoms of a hiatal hernia include difficulty swallowing, severe reflux/regurgitation/indigestion or the feeling of food getting caught in your throat. These hernias are diagnosed with the help of endoscopy or special x-rays.  The surgery to repair these is done laparoscopically and requires several days stay in the hospital. This type of hiatal hernia surgery is performed after medical management of your symptoms fails.

If you require surgery for reflux or a hiatal hernia, you will require some testing to evaluate the function of your esophagus prior to the procedure.