Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is a very common condition affecting five to seven percent of the world's population. Many of those people go untreated because they don't know that the symptoms may signal a more serious condition.1
Causes & Risk Factors
Anyone, including infants and children, can have GERD. Causes and risk factors for GERD can include: hiatal hernia (part of the stomach moves above the diaphragm - the muscle separating the chest and abdominal cavities), scleroderma and obesity; smoking and alcohol may also increase the risk of GERD.2
GERD can also be brought on or worsened by pregnancy and medications for certain conditions (seasickness, asthma, heart disease, high blood pressure, Parkinson's Disease, excessive menstrual bleeding, insomnia and depression).
You may feel a burning in the chest or throat which is commonly called heartburn. Sometimes, you can taste stomach fluid in the back of the mouth. This is known as acid indigestion. If you have these symptoms more than twice a week, you may have GERD.2 Other symptoms of GERD can include:
- Feeling that food may be left trapped behind the breastbone
- Increased heartburn when bending, stooping, lying down, or eating
- Nausea after eating
- Difficulty swallowing
- Regurgitation of food
If it is not treated, GERD can lead to more serious health problems. In some cases, you might need medication or surgery. Your doctor will discuss treatment options with you in detail, which may include:4
Lifestyle / Dietary Changes
Some GERD patients have found that following lifestyle and dietary changes can ease their symptoms:
- Avoid bending over or exercising just after eating
- Avoid foods and beverages that trigger symptoms
- Avoid clothes or belts that fit tightly around your waist
- Do not lie down with a full stomach
- Do not smoke
- Eat smaller meals
- Lose weight, if you are overweight
- Reduce stress
- Sleep with your head raised about 6 inches (tilt entire bed, or use a wedge under your body, not just with normal pillows)
Over-the-counter antacids after meals and at bedtime may help some GERD patients, but the benefits do not last very long and certain medications have side effects of diarrhea or constipation. Other over-the-counter and prescription drugs can provide longer relief of symptoms, but they work more slowly than antacids. Your doctor or nurse can tell you how to properly take these drugs.
When medication, lifestyle or dietary changes do not ease your symptoms, GERD surgery, known as Nissen fundoplication, may be recommended.
During surgery, the upper curve of the stomach (fundus) is wrapped around the esophagus and sewn into place so that the lower portion of the esophagus passes through a small tunnel of stomach muscle. Surgery strengthens the valve between the esophagus and stomach, which stops acid from backing up into the esophagus as easily.
If the procedure is done using open surgery, a large incision is made through the abdomen or chest. This procedure can also be done using a laparoscopic surgical technique which is less invasive but has certain limitations due to the long-handled, rigid instruments used.
Heartburn and other symptoms should improve after surgery, but your doctor may recommend that you still take medication if your heartburn continues.
If your doctor recommends surgery to treat GERD, you may be a candidate for a safe, effective, and minimally invasive procedure - da Vinci Surgery. Using the most advanced technology available, the da Vinci System enables your doctor to perform this delicate operation with breakthrough precision, superior vision, dexterity, and improved access to the affected area. da Vinci Surgery offers GERD patients many potential benefits over traditional surgery, including:
- Lower risk of esophageal tears (perforations)3
- Lower risk of complications3
- Lower blood loss and need for transfusions3
- Fewer complications3
- Safety and precision3
- Shorter hospital stay3
This procedure is performed using the da VinciSurgical System, a technological breakthrough that enables surgeons to operate with unmatched precision, dexterity and control. By overcoming the limits of both traditional open and laparoscopic surgery, da Vinci is revolutionizing surgery.
As with any surgery, these benefits cannot be guaranteed since surgery is specific to each patient, condition and procedure. That's why it is important to always talk to your doctor about all treatment options, the risks and benefits.
While clinical studies support the effectiveness of the da Vinci® System when used in minimally invasive surgery, individual results may vary. Surgery with the da Vinci Surgical System may not be appropriate for every individual. Always ask your doctor about all treatment options, as well as their risks and benefits.
Are You a Candidate for da Vinci Surgery?
The following physicians are trained to use the da Vinci Surgical System at Lourdes for general procedures:
- Christian D. Tvetenstrand, MD
Southern Tier Surgical Clinic
161 Riverside Drive, Suite M08
Only you and your doctor can decide if da Vinci Surgery may be right for you.