GERD is an acronym for gastroesophageal reflux disease, but it is usually associated with chronic acid reflux, as opposed to the occasional case. The continual irritation of the esophageal lining can lead to serious medical problems like the inability to swallow food, for example. Often, re-occurring acid reflux is associated with another condition – a hiatal hernia.
A hiatal hernia occurs as the stomach pushes upward through the diaphragm. There is a small opening in the diaphragm to allow the esophagus to pass through and connect to the stomach. When the stomach pushes upward through that opening, it can cause acid to back up into the esophagus, creating acid reflux.
Treatment for acid reflux depends on a number of factors. Mild and occasional reflux reduces with lifestyle changes and over-the-counter meds like an antacid. Dr. Podolsky will evaluate each patient and, generally, try these conventional approaches first to reduce incidents of discomfort. There are surgical options for serious reflux disease, including the Nissen fundoplication.
The Nissen fundoplication is a surgical procedure used for both GERD and a hiatal hernia. It is a laparoscopic technique that allows Dr. Podolsky to tighten the valve in the esophagus, called the esophageal sphincter, to prevent reflux. The doctor wraps the top of the stomach around that area to support the sphincter. This way, when the stomach contracts as part of the digestive process, it closes the esophagus at the same time, preventing that backup of acid.