8 Things to Know About Acid Reflux Surgery

  • Describing symptoms to a doctor
    1. Acid reflux surgery treats gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
    If you have a diagnosis of GERD, surgery may be an option. The most common reason for having surgery is when lifestyle changes and medications fail to control your symptoms. And if you are having complications, such as bleeding or scarring of the esophagus, surgery may be the best treatment. In some cases, people opt for surgery when they realize they will need lifelong medications to control GERD. Other times, people can’t tolerate the medications due to side effects.

  • surgeons-operating-on-patient
    2. There are different types of acid reflux surgeries.
    There are a variety of acid reflux surgery approaches and procedures. No matter which one your surgeon recommends, they are all a version of a surgery called a fundoplication. Another name for it is anti-reflux surgery. This surgery creates a new esophageal sphincter by wrapping part of the stomach around the esophagus. If you have a hiatal hernia, your surgeon will correct it. Your surgeon may also correct any scarring or ulcers in your esophagus.

  • Senior Couple Talking with doctor
    3. You will likely need to stay in the hospital after acid reflux surgery.
    Most acid reflux surgeries are laparoscopic, which is minimally invasive. Even so, acid reflux surgery is major surgery and you will likely spend some time in the hospital. However, your stay will be shorter than if you have open surgery. Laparoscopic acid reflux surgery reduces hospital stays by 2 to 3 days. It also reduces the time it takes for you to return to normal activities. But don’t be distressed if your doctor recommends open surgery. The two approaches have similar outcomes in the months after surgery.

  • Senior-couple-at-the-doctors-office
    4. Acid reflux surgery has a high success rate.
    In about 95% of cases, acid reflux surgery relieves symptoms enough that people don’t need medications afterwards. Studies following people for more than five years after surgery find that symptom improvement continues long term. What’s more, quality of life improves after surgery for most people. Satisfaction is also high with acid reflux surgery. At least 81% of people say they would have the surgery again.

  • Taking medication
    5. Your experience with medications may predict surgery success.
    Studies have looked at predictors of a successful surgery. One area of focus has been medication use. People who are compliant—or use their medication consistently as prescribed—tend to have more success with surgery. Similarly, people whose symptoms improve on a PPI (proton pump inhibitor) tend to have better symptom improvement after surgery. But don’t be discouraged if your PPI doesn’t work well for you. You may still get symptom relief from surgery.

  • Older couple sitting on park bench
    6. Older age should not affect the success of acid reflux surgery.
    If you’re 65 years or older, acid reflux surgery is likely a viable option for treating GERD. Studies show older age doesn’t affect the success of acid reflux surgery. In fact, about 90% of older people have excellent outcomes after acid reflux surgery. This success rate is similar to that in younger people undergoing the same surgery. However, older people may need to spend more time in the hospital than younger people.

  • male holding stomach
    7. Acid reflux surgery changes your ability to belch.
    Acid reflux surgery is generally safe and effective. But there are some potential side effects. The most common side effect is being unable to burp, belch or vomit. This means that you will have more bloating and flatulence after acid reflux surgery. Most people learn to live with this change, and symptoms tend to lessen over time. Some people also have trouble swallowing right after surgery. This condition—called dysphagia—usually resolves within three months.

  • Chicken Soup Broth
    8. Your diet may change after acid reflux surgery.
    Your doctor may recommend a liquid diet right after acid reflux surgery. Gradually, you will transition to soft foods and then to a regular diet. You may find that very small amounts of liquid or food fill you up quickly. This is due to the inability to belch or burp. Try eating small frequent meals, separating liquids and solid food, and avoiding carbonated drinks and foods that give you gas. Make sure you understand any dietary restrictions before your surgery so you can stock up on the right kinds of food and drink.

8 Things to Know About Acid Reflux Surgery
Acid Reflux Surgery

About The Author

Sarah Lewis is a pharmacist and a medical writer with over 25 years of experience in various areas of pharmacy practice. Sarah holds a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy degree from West Virginia University and a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy. She completed Pharmacy Practice Residency training at the University of Pittsburgh/VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System. 
  1. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. The Society of Thoracic Surgeons. https://www.sts.org/patient-information/esophageal-surgery/gastroesophageal-reflux-disease 
  2. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). University of Southern California. http://www.surgery.usc.edu/thoracic/gastroesophagealrefluxdisease.html 
  3. Guidelines for Surgical Treatment of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons. http://www.sages.org/publications/guidelines/guidelines-for-surgical-treatment-of-gastroesophageal-r...
  4. Patient Information for Laparoscopic Anti-Reflux (GERD) Surgery from SAGES. Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons. http://www.sages.org/publications/patient-information/patient-information-for-laparoscopic-anti-refl... 
  5. Peters MJ, Mukhtar A, Yunus RM, Khan S, Pappalardo J, et al. Meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials comparing open and laparoscopic anti-reflux surgery. Am J Gastroenterol. 2009 Jun;104(6):1548-61.
  6. Reflux Surgery (Nissen Fundoplication). Georgia Regents University. http://www.gru.edu/mcg/surgery/midds/patient_education/reflux_surgery.php
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2019 Apr 12
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