What is gastroesophageal reflux (GERD)?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a digestive disorder that affects the lower esophageal sphincter (the muscular ring connecting the esophagus with the stomach). The sphincter normally prevents food from moving out of the stomach and back up into the esophagus.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

  • When a person has GERD, the sphincter muscle becomes weak or fails to close tightly, causing food and stomach acids to flow back (reflux) into the esophagus. The lining of the esophagus can become inflamed or irritated from these acids, which can cause a burning chest pain and sometimes a sour taste or cough.

GERD can sometimes be managed by:

  • Taking medications to reduce acid in the stomach
  • Decreasing the size of meals
  • Losing weight, if overweight
  • Quitting smoking
  • Avoiding certain acidic foods that irritate the esophageal lining
  • Not lying down for two to three hours after eating
  • Elevating the head of the bed six inches

When is laparoscopic antireflux surgery necessary?

People with severe, chronic esophageal reflux might need surgery to correct the problem if their symptoms are not relieved through other medical treatments. If left untreated, chronic gastroesophageal reflux can cause complications such as esophagitis, esophageal ulcers, bleeding, or scarring of the esophagus.

Laparoscopic antireflux surgery (also called Nissen fundoplication) is used in the treatment of GERD when medicines are not successful. Laparoscopic antireflux surgery is a minimally-invasive procedure that corrects gastroesophageal reflux by creating an effective valve mechanism at the bottom of the esophagus.

Who can have laparoscopic antireflux surgery?

Laparoscopic antireflux surgery is most appropriate for people who have not had previous abdominal surgery, those who have small hiatal hernias without complications of GERD, and those who experience most symptoms of reflux when lying down.