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Gastrointestinal

Frequently Asked Questions

Are heartburn, reflux and GERD all the same thing?

No.

  • Heartburn can happen occasionally and is a description of the discomfort that can occur when acid enters the esophagus.
  • Reflux is the actual mechanism of the acid and bile traveling up into the esophagus from the stomach. It should be noted that one can have severe reflux without ever having heartburn symptoms
  • GERD(Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) is a chronic, progressive disease that can cause damage to the esophagus from prolonged exposure to stomach acid and bile

If I have occasional heartburn, does that mean I have GERD?

No. Many people without GERD have an occasional feeling of heartburn.

Should I see a special doctor if I think I have GERD?

Absolutely. A gastroenterologist that specializes in the treatment of GERD is a great place to start.

What kinds of food should I avoid?

Avoid such things as caffeine, greasy foods, alcohol and acidic foods such as tomato sauces.

What kinds of tests do I need to have?

  • You gastroenterologist will most likely suggest an EGD (Esophagogastroduodenoscopy) which is an endoscopic diagnostic procedure in which the doctor uses a lighted scope to examine the inside of your esophagus, stomach and the first part of your small intestine.
  • A pH study might be recommended that can tell your doctor how much acid is entering your esophagus at a given time.
  • A manometry study is often ordered that can reveal problems with the functionality and strength of your esophagus.

Is there a cure for GERD?

YES. Minimally invasive surgery options are available that correct the cause of GERD — a weakened or malfunctioning opening between the stomach and the esophagus.

What kind of surgery is available to cure reflux?

A GERD specialist can help you determine which surgery is best for you. Options include:
  • The LINX Reflux Management System is a minor, minimally invasive procedure that places a small, flexible band of magnets around a weak esophageal sphincter, just above the stomach. 
  • Nissen Fundoplication involves wrapping the upper portion of the stomach around the lower portion of the esophagus.
  • Transoral Incisionless Fundoplication (TIF) is an endoscopic procedure that corrects the problem with the lower esophageal sphincter without incisions to the abdomen.

Can I stay on my reflux medicine forever?

This is not advisable
 
If I have the surgery for reflux disease, will I still have to take medicine?

Most patients are able to completely stop using medication for reflux after surgery. Those that need to continue using medication use it only occasionally and/or use a dramatically reduced dosage.
 
What are the side effects of being on my heartburn medicine for a long time?
The instructions from drug companies clearly state that heartburn medicines are to be taken for no more than 14 days. The most commonly prescribed reflux medicines are known as PPIs (proton-pump inhibitors) such as Prevacid and Nexium. They have been found to have serious, long-term effects including:
  • Increased risk of osteoporosis 
  • Increased risk of dementia
  • Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Increase risk of Barrett’s esophagus, which can lead to cancer of the esophagus
  • Increased risk of pneumonia
  • Increased risk of intestinal and stomach bacterial infection

Do I have to follow a special diet if I have the surgery?

Each procedure has its own diet instructions. Any diet restrictions are only in the short term during recovery. Patients can eventually return to a normal diet and lifestyle.