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Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
The foods we eat, the way we eat them, our body type, or even hernias in our diaphragm can cause a reflux. Gastroesophageal reflux disease or “GERD” – occurs when our bodies cannot prevent acid from washing up into the esophagus like it normally should.
How does reflux feel?
Reflux is often associated with typical “heartburn” symptoms such as pain just under the ribcage, a brackish water taste in the mouth, recurrent sore throats, or rapid airway diseases such as asthma. It’s not just the pain associated with GERD that people have to deal with. Reflux can lead to a number of other serious health concerns.
“Many people will often use acid blocking medications to relieve symptoms,” said general surgeon, Craig Kline, MD. “Long term use of these types of medications may lead to side effects such as osteoporosis or mental health issues. At the same time, long-term reflux disease, even if treated symptomatically by acid suppression, carries risk of Barrett’s esophagus, which can lead to esophageal cancer.”
What are my treatment options?
Treatment for GERD varies – it’s important to first look at lifestyle changes and medication which may help alleviate symptoms. If the condition persists, surgery may be necessary. Common risk factors which can lead to GERD include:
- Eating large meals or lying down right after a meal
- Eating large meals right before bed
- Consuming certain food/drinks such as alcohol, caffeine, high-fat foods, or spicy foods
How can surgery help me?
A hole in the diaphragm, called a hiatus, allows the esophagus to poke down into the abdominal cavity. Over time, the stomach can start to protrude upward into the chest cavity. Reflux can exist without a hernia, but most of the time people who suffer from GERD have a slight hernia.
During robotic surgery, the surgeon will repair an existing hiatal hernia to its appropriate size and location within the diaphragm. If necessary, the stomach is also wrapped around itself and sewn into place in order to increase resting pressure of the area of the esophagus, in turn preventing a reflux.
While previous surgical methods led to complications, as wrist movements were limited, the new da Vinci® XI™ surgical system uses 3D visualization making it a safer operation which takes place in a shorter amount of time, with less recovery.