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Understanding GERD

What Causes GERD?

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, or GERD, is a chronic, often progressive condition resulting from a weak Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES). When left untreated, serious complications can result, including: esophagitis, stricture, Barrett's esophagus, and esophageal cancer.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), also known as GORD, is a chronic, often progressive condition resulting from a weak Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES). When left untreated, serious complications can result, including: esophagitis, stricture, Barrett's esophagus, and esophageal cancer.

The LES is a muscle at the junction of the esophagus and stomach that functions as the body's natural barrier to reflux. The LES acts like a valve, allowing food and liquid to pass through to the stomach. Normally, the LES closes immediately after swallowing, preventing reflux. (Fig. 1) However, in people with GERD, the LES is weak, allowing acid and bile to reflux from the stomach into the esophagus. (Fig. 2)

  • Figure 1: A competent LES prevents chronic reflux into the esophagus

  • Figure 2: A weak LES allows reflux into the esophagus



Symptoms of GERD

People experience symptoms of GERD in a variety of ways. The most common symptom of GERD is heartburn.
Other symptoms may include:



Treatment Options

Treatment options for people who suffer from GERD vary widely depending on the severity and symptoms of their disease, however, there are currently three primary means of treating GERD: lifestyle changes, medical therapy and surgical intervention. Always consult your physician when considering treatment options.

Lifestyle Changes

Infrequent heartburn may be controlled by lifestyle changes such as weight loss, smoking cessation and eating modifications.

Taking the following steps may aid in reducing the frequency and severity of reflux episodes:

Taking steps such as these may help to reduce the symptoms associated with infrequent reflux, however, for patients who have moderate to severe GERD, lifestyle changes alone may not completely relieve symptoms.

Medical Therapy

Medications used to treat GERD fall into three categories: antacids, H2 Blockers and Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPI's). These medications are designed to control or suppress acid production in the stomach. They do not address the cause of reflux and do not prevent reflux.

It is important to note that each of these drugs require lifetime therapy; symptoms may return shortly after a patient discontinues their use.

Surgical Treatment

Anti-reflux surgery is performed through open or laparoscopic incisions in the abdominal wall. Currently, the standard of care for surgical treatment of GERD is the Nissen Fundoplication procedure. The Nissen Fundoplication procedure involves wrapping a portion of the stomach around the esophagus to reinforce the weakened Lower Esophageal Sphincter.

While typically effective, the Nissen procedure has several shortcomings that have limited its use:

A New Treatment Option

Torax Medical has developed a new technology for the treatment of GERD; to learn more about this technology follow the link below.

LINX® Reflux Management System >>