Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

GERD is a medical condition in which the lower esophageal sphincter, responsible for keeping swallowed food and liquids down, instead opens or relaxes, allowing stomach contents to flow up into the esophagus. More than 3 million Americans are diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) every year. Countless more suffer the symptoms without seeking medical care.

At The University of Kansas Health System in Kansas City, our experienced surgeons offer minimally invasive surgical procedures that resolve GERD for the long term.

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GERD symptoms

  • Aspiration, when food rises through the esophagus and returns down the trachea
  • Chronic hoarseness or cough
  • Dental problems
  • Difficulty swallowing (resulting from scarring)
  • Frequent heartburn
  • Regurgitation of food, especially at night

Diagnosing GERD

Our experienced gastrointestinal surgeons use several diagnostic techniques, including:

  • Endoscopy, in which a narrow scope equipped with a light and camera is used to view the upper digestive tract.
  • 24-hour pH study via Bravo capsule, in which your doctor will place a small capsule containing a tiny transmitter at the base of your esophagus, where it will collect data as you go about your normal activities. The capsule will eventually dislodge and pass as a waste product.
  • Esophageal manometry, which measures the function of the lower esophageal sphincter, the valve that prevents acid reflux. A small catheter is inserted via the nose and guided down into the stomach. Sensors on the catheter measure the activity of the esophagus over about a 15-minute period. You will not be sedated, but will be given pain medication to reduce discomfort. While possibly uncomfortable, the test is not painful and reveals important data doctors will use to make care decisions for you.

GERD surgery

GERD can afflict patients of all ages, including those in their 20s and 30s. Such patients may face decades of medication use, which can have its own set of risks and inconveniences, and may be unaware that a long-lasting correction of the problem is within reach. Surgical correction may offer a better long-term outlook than symptom control alone.

For example, fundoplication can be performed as an open or laparoscopic surgery. It is performed to tighten and strengthen the lower esophageal sphincter. When done laparoscopically, incisions are small and recovery time reduced.