This page will give you information about anti-reflux surgery. If you have any questions, you should ask your GP or other relevant health professional.
What is acid reflux?
Acid reflux is a condition where acid from your stomach travels up into your oesophagus (gullet). If this happens too often it can cause symptoms of a burning sensation in your chest (‘heartburn’) or acid in the back of your mouth. The acid can cause the lining of your oesophagus to become inflamed (oesophagitis) or scarred.
What are the benefits of surgery?
You should get relief from symptoms of acid reflux without needing to take medication.
Are there any alternatives to surgery?
Medication that lowers the acid content in your stomach is effective at controlling symptoms and healing the inflammation in your oesophagus.
Surgery is recommended only if the symptoms continue while you are taking the medication, or if you feel that you would prefer to have an operation than take medication for the rest of your life.
What does the operation involve?
The operation is performed under a general anaesthetic and usually takes 1 to 2 hours.
Your surgeon will hold your liver out of the way and free up the upper stomach and lower oesophagus, along with the muscular part of your diaphragm.
They will stitch your diaphragm to reduce the size of the hole your oesophagus passes through.
Your surgeon will wrap and stitch the top part of your stomach around your lower oesophagus, to produce a valve effect.
What complications can happen?
Some of these can be serious and can even cause death.
General complications of any operation
- infection of the surgical site (wound)
- unsightly scarring of your skin
- developing a hernia in the scar
- blood clot in your leg
- blood clot in your lung
Specific complications of this operation
Keyhole surgery complications
- surgical emphysema (crackling sensation in your skin caused by trapped carbon dioxide gas)
- damage to structures such as your bowel, bladder or blood vessels
- developing a hernia near one of the cuts
Anti-reflux surgery complications
- difficulty swallowing for a few months
- pneumothorax, where air escapes into the space around your lung
- tear of the stitches used for the wrap
- making a hole in your oesophagus or stomach
- damage to your liver
- continued difficulty swallowing where you cannot swallow most foods normally
- incomplete control of reflux symptoms
- tissues can join together in an abnormal way
- weight loss
- abdominal discomfort
How soon will I recover?
You should be able to go home the next day.
You should be able to return to work after 3 to 4 weeks, depending on how much surgery you need and your type of work.
Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice.
You should make a full recovery, with the symptoms of acid reflux gone or much improved.
Acid reflux can cause heartburn or acid in your mouth. The acid can cause the lining of your oesophagus to become inflamed or scarred. Surgery may be recommended if your symptoms continue while you are taking medication.
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Last reviewed: September 2019