Chronic acid reflux is nothing to trifle with. It can cause serious complications, including changes to your esophagus, such as Barrett’s esophagus, ulcers, infections, and cancer. It can also lead to lung problems, such as chronic bronchitis, pneumonia, and asthma.
While over-the-counter antacids and prescription-strength medication can control symptoms for a while, they don’t address the root cause of the problem — which is usually a hiatal hernia.
Dr. Nirav Naik at New Life Medical in Bakersfield, California, has trained extensively in the latest heartburn surgery technology to bring lasting relief to patients suffering from severe acid reflux or gastrointestinal acid reflux (GERD) related to a hiatal hernia. Here, he explains the procedure and describes the characteristics of a good candidate.
What’s a hiatal hernia?
Your esophagus is a long tube that delivers food and liquid from your throat to your stomach. At the bottom end, there’s a one-way valve called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) that opens to let food drop into your stomach and then immediately closes and stays shut to prevent stomach acids from moving up into your esophagus, called heartburn or acid reflux.
Several conditions can lead to acid reflux, and many of them are situational and temporary. But when the problem becomes chronic, a hiatal hernia is often the culprit. If the top portion of your stomach pushes upward past the diaphragm, it bulges into your chest cavity (hiatal hernia). This effectively shortens the length of your esophagus, and your LES loses the support from your diaphragm.
How surgery corrects a hiatal hernia and heartburn
If your chronic heartburn is caused or exacerbated by a hiatal hernia, the solution is twofold: First, we need to repair the hernia, and second, we need to restore LES function. Dr. Naik is specially trained in the most advanced surgical procedures involving an innovative solution.
Repairing your hiatal hernia
To repair a hiatal hernia, Dr. Naik surgically repositions the herniated upper portion of your stomach by pulling it back down below the diaphragm. Then, he closes up the stretched out opening in your diaphragm. He may also use mesh to reinforce the area and decrease the possibility of a recurrence.
Restoring your LES function
After months or years of acid reflux, your LES is likely loose and incapable of closing tightly. Dr. Naik has two ways to solve this.
He can either wrap the upper portion of your stomach around itself — called the Nissen fundoplication procedure — or implant a small ring of magnets called LINX around your weakened LES like a bracelet. The magnets are strong enough to keep the LES closed at rest, but they still allow food and liquid to pass through when you swallow.
Do you need heartburn surgery?
How do you know when your heartburn qualifies for surgical intervention? Here are a few indicators:
- You have chronic heartburn and indigestion caused by GERD
- You have a hiatal hernia
- Your LES is dysfunctional
- Your symptoms respond well to medications, but you want to stop taking them
You may not be a good candidate for heartburn surgery if:
- You have GERD with atypical symptoms, such as chronic cough, laryngitis, or asthma
- Your symptoms don’t respond well to medications
- Your esophagus has narrowed
- Your symptoms aren’t related to GERD
Of course, the only way to know for sure whether you need heartburn surgery is to come in to see Dr. Naik for a complete evaluation. To schedule an appointment, contact our friendly staff at 661-230-8306 today.