Treating Acid Reflux and GERD

At age 77, John Erickson thought his hiatal hernia would be with him for the rest of his life. A hiatal hernia is a condition where part of the stomach pushes into the chest through the diaphragm. Hiatal hernias are common among older adults and can cause uncomfortable symptoms, such as heartburn and indigestion.

“Although it didn’t give me severe acid reflux like most hiatal hernias, it was so large that it pressed on my heart whenever I ate,” says Erickson, a retired anatomy professor. “If I did anything active, even walking, I felt like I was having a heart attack.”

Erickson’s primary care provider said he might be a good candidate for surgery, despite his age. Norton King’s Daughters’ Health general surgeon Matthew Golden, M.D., agreed.

“He suffered for years with bad chest pain but had not been offered surgery,” Dr. Golden says. “We decided to proceed with a laparoscopic Nissen fundoplication.”

A Nissen fundoplication is a minimally invasive surgery that involves wrapping a part of the stomach around the lower esophagus to create a valve-like structure that helps prevent stomach acid from moving into the esophagus. This procedure can repair hiatal hernias and treat gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Results On Day One

Erickson was able to leave the hospital the day after his surgery in February.

“The recovery was miraculous,” Erickson says. “I had no pain whatsoever, even without medication.”

Erickson was on a liquid diet for two weeks to allow his esophagus to heal. Within weeks, he was back to his usual activities and able to eat without discomfort.

“I’ve now recommended the procedure to several friends because it has been a game changer,” Erickson says. “Dr. Golden and the rest of the staff were just phenomenal.”

Is Your Heartburn GERD?

Heartburn – that feeling of burning or acid in your throat after eating or drinking – is common as you age. But frequent heartburn, also called acid reflux, could be the sign of a more serious condition: gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

“If you are taking over-the-counter medication to treat your reflux on a daily or even weekly basis, you should talk to your doctor,” says Matthew Golden, MD, general surgeon at Norton King’s Daughters’ Health.

Other symptoms of GERD can include:

• Breathing difficulties
• Dry cough, especially at night or when lying down
• Feeling like there is food stuck in your throat or chest
• Gagging
• Nausea
• Trouble swallowing

Dr. Golden suggests seeking treatment if you experience one or more of these symptoms.

Why GERD May Need Surgical Treatment

Acid reflux can be controlled by medications, such as proton pump inhibitors.

“However, we’re realizing the medicine is not as safe for long-term use as we once thought it was,” Dr. Golden says. “Younger patients may benefit from anti- reflux surgery so they don’t have to be on medication indefinitely.”

Find out more about surgery for hiatal hernia and GERD at Norton KDH by calling (812) 801-0840.

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