Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid flows backward into the esophagus. This causes heartburn and other symptoms. Chronic or severe acid reflux is known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Mild or moderate reflux symptoms can often be relieved with diet and lifestyle changes. Over-the-counter and prescription medications can also help with symptom relief. Medications used to treat GERD include:
Unfortunately, some people aren’t helped by lifestyle changes or medications. Surgery may be an option for those people. Surgery focuses on repairing or replacing the valve at the bottom of the esophagus that normally keeps acid from moving backward from the stomach. This valve is called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). A weak or damaged LES is what causes GERD.
Untreated GERD can develop into a condition called Barrett’s esophagus. This condition increases the risk of esophageal cancer. However, esophageal cancer is rare, even in people with Barrett’s.
Surgery may be recommended if you have serious GERD complications. For example, stomach acid can cause inflammation of the esophagus. This may lead to bleeding or ulcers. Scars from tissue damage can constrict the esophagus and make swallowing difficult.
Surgery for GERD is usually a last resort. Your doctor will first try to manage your symptoms with changes to your diet and lifestyle. This gives relief to most people with the condition. If that does not give you relief, they will try long-term medications. If these steps do not relieve the symptoms, then your doctor will consider surgery. You might also consider surgery to avoid taking long-term medications.
There are several surgical options that may help to relieve GERD symptoms and manage complications. Speak with your doctor for guidance on the best approach to manage your condition.
If your GERD requires surgery, you should be sure and discuss the cost of your surgery with your doctor and the hospital. The costs vary greatly depending on your insurance, the hospital, type of surgery, and other factors.