Relief from the burn: Laparoscopic Surgery, PPIs Both Effective for Chronic GERD

Posted: Jun 07 in Surgery Blog tagged by Staff

For many individuals who suffer from heartburn, basic diet changes can help them manage their heartburn symptoms. Sometimes, however, diet changes are not enough to control heartburn, especially with chronic cases. For these individuals, relief is typically found in a class of prescription medications known as PPIs. However, a new study found that laparoscopic surgery is as successful as PPIs at treating chronic heartburn, offering a re-found hope to heartburn sufferers that did not benefit from medication.

Heartburn occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) relaxes, allowing stomach acid to reflux. This causes a painful burning sensation. In chronic cases, medications known as PPIs (proton pump inhibitors) are prescribed to relieve heartburn sufferers from the painful symptoms. PPIs, however, cannot prevent the reflux of acid. Thus chronic heartburn patients typically face a lifetime of dependency on these medications for relief, or turn to painful open surgery options.

Traditionally, heartburn surgery required an open operation, meaning a large cut was made in the upper abdomen or the chest. The operation was extremely painful for patients, and recovery time was at least five to seven days in the hospital.

In laparoscopic surgery, several tiny incisions are made, rather than one large cut. This approach greatly reduces the patient’s pain and discomfort, and the recovery period is as short as an overnight stay in the hospital. While the surgery is less-invasive, the procedure is identical to open surgery. A small portion at the top of the stomach is wrapped around the lower part of the gullet, which prevents stomach acid from refluxing.

The Journal of the American Medical Association found that five years after receiving laparoscopic surgery, 85% of patients reported that they no longer suffered from chronic heartburn. There was no statistical difference between this success rate and the percentage of patients taking PPIs who also reported that their heartburn symptoms were in remission, but surgical treatment patients benefited form not relying on daily medication for their relief.

The major benefit of laparoscopic surgery is that it spares heartburn sufferers from a lifetime dependency on expensive prescription medications, and reduces the risk of potentially harmful long-term side effects. The laparoscopic method also greatly reduces recovery time and the risk of complications when compared to traditional open surgery.

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