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If you’ve ever experienced that uncomfortable burning sensation in your chest after a meal or when lying down, you’re likely familiar with acid reflux. Acid reflux occurs when the acid your stomach produces to digest food escapes into your esophagus. 

Everyone experiences acid reflux now and then (heartburn). However, if this is a recurring issue, it may signal a more serious condition known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD occurs when stomach acid flows into your esophagus, causing irritation and a range of unpleasant symptoms. The bad news is that chronic acid reflux can cause damage to the esophagus as well as increase a person’s risk of developing Barrett’s esophagus or esophageal cancer. However, the good news is that effective solutions are available to manage and treat chronic acid reflux.

The Northwest Institute for Digestive Surgery (NWIDS) is one of the clinics in the Northwest Specialty Hospital family of clinics. Located in Post Falls, NWIDS specializes in assisting patients with digestive problems, including acid reflux.

Understanding GERD

As noted above, GERD is characterized by the backflow of stomach acid repeatedly flowing into the esophagus. Generally, GERD results from the valve between your esophagus and stomach not operating correctly. Usually, this sphincter muscle valve goes “one way,” allowing food to move from your esophagus into your stomach. While it can open up to move stomach contents the other way (such as when you vomit), GERD occurs when the sphincter muscle is not closing or staying closed. Typical symptoms of GERD include:

  • Heartburn, often worse after eating or lying down
  • Regurgitation: Backwash of food or sour liquid
  • Upper abdominal or chest pain
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Feeling of a lump in the throat

If left untreated, GERD can also contribute to other health issues like coughing, laryngitis, and even exacerbate asthma symptoms, and may damage your esophagus permanently.

Diagnosis and Treatment Options

For those struggling with persistent GERD symptoms, finding effective treatment is crucial. At NWIDS, we offer advanced diagnostic techniques to evaluate the severity of your condition and provide a range of treatment options.

In some cases, medications can assist with or even manage the condition. However, when medications fail to provide relief, NWIDS can perform intraluminal esophageal impedance monitoring. This test helps detect and measure reflux regardless of acid content, accurately diagnosing what is causing your symptoms.

Depending on your condition, NWIDS specializes in providing several minimally invasive surgery options that can strengthen the lower esophageal sphincter, the valve between the stomach and the esophagus. These procedures include:

  • Laparoscopic Fundoplication: This is a commonly performed surgery that involves wrapping a portion of the upper stomach around the esophagus to reinforce the sphincter. This outpatient procedure offers long-term relief from GERD symptoms with minimal recovery time.
  • Transoral Incisionless Fundoplication (TIF): A newer, minimally invasive procedure performed through the mouth, TIF tightens and repairs the lower esophageal sphincter without abdominal incisions. It offers effective symptom relief with fewer side effects and a quicker recovery.
  • LINX Reflux Management System: This innovative device, consisting of a small ring of magnetic beads placed around the esophagus, helps keep the sphincter closed to prevent reflux. Laparoscopic surgery is used to implant the device, offering long-term relief with minimal discomfort.

Benefits of Surgical Treatment

Surgical interventions for GERD aim to strengthen the lower esophageal sphincter, addressing the root cause of the condition. Compared to long-term medication use, surgical options offer several advantages:

  • Reduced Reliance on Medication: Many patients no longer need medication to manage GERD symptoms after surgery.
  • Long-Term Symptom Relief: Surgical procedures provide lasting relief from acid reflux, improving quality of life.
  • Minimal Side Effects: While temporary discomfort may occur after surgery, most patients experience a quick recovery and minimal side effects.

Your Path to Relief

If you’ve been struggling with chronic acid reflux, our experienced surgeons at NWIDS offer a variety of treatments that can help you find lasting relief from GERD symptoms. From advanced diagnostics to minimally invasive surgical options, we’re dedicated to helping you regain control of your digestive health. Contact NWIDS today to learn more about our comprehensive GERD treatment options and take the first step toward a life free from chronic acid reflux.

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