Young woman showing symptomatic acid reflux

GERD: When Simple Heartburn Becomes Chronic Acid Reflux

By Billie Jo Grieve, MD, General Surgery

Have you noticed that eating some foods or eating too late at night causes heartburn? Has it increased in severity and returns frequently? You may have chronic gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and there’s a surgery that can repair it.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease pictureWhat is GERD?

The lower esophageal sphincter (LES) between your esophagus and your stomach is a ring of muscle. The LES acts like a shut-off valve between your stomach, where stomach acid belongs, and your esophagus, where it does not. When the LES doesn’t work correctly—becoming weak or relaxing when it shouldn’t—painful stomach acid can back up into the esophagus.

One potential cause for GERD is a hiatal hernia, which could cause stomach acid to move into the esophagus. In addition to causing pain and discomfort, the stomach acid from chronic (ongoing) GERD can cause scarring or ulceration of the esophagus and even the throat.

In addition to pain, other GERD symptoms include:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Bad breath or trouble breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Wearing down of tooth enamel

Surgery for GERD

Talk to your doctor about whether diet and lifestyle changes could help alleviate your symptoms of chronic GERD. If these measures do not relieve the discomfort, Nissen Fundoplication surgery may be needed. This is a procedure in which the surgeon winds the top of your stomach around the LES to correct chronic GERD. This surgery is usually performed laparoscopically, which means small incisions, so a patient will have less scarring and a faster recovery.

Glacial Ridge has state-of-the-art surgical suites and surgeons who are highly skilled in the Nissen Fundoplication surgery for chronic GERD. For more information about GERD surgery or to schedule an appointment, please call 320.634.5157