Treatment of GERD can begin with lifestyle changes that include quitting smoking, losing weight if needed and avoiding foods and beverages that worsen symptoms. Eating small, frequent meals, wearing loose-fitting clothing and avoiding lying down for three hours after a meal may help. Raising the head of your bed 6-8 inches may also help.
Over-the counter medications that neutralize stomach acid, reduce acid production or block acid production and heal the esophagus are usually the first step in treating GERD. If these don't seem to be helping after a few weeks, prescription-strength medications may be tried. A combination of medications may be tried to increase effectiveness.
When lifestyle changes and medication do not control GERD, surgery may be an option. Surgery may also be a reasonable alternative to a lifetime of drugs and discomfort.
The standard surgical treatment for GERD is called fundoplication. A specific type of this procedure, called Nissen fundoplication, is usually performed. During the procedure, the upper part of the stomach is wrapped around the LES to strengthen the sphincter, prevent acid reflux and repair a hiatal hernia if one is present.
Today, the Nissen fundoplication may be performed using a minimally-invasive or laparoscopic approach. A laparoscope is an instrument that is inserted through tiny incisions in the abdomen. The doctor then uses small instruments that hold a camera to look at the abdomen and pelvis. When performed by experienced surgeons, the laparoscopic procedure is safe and effective in people of all ages, including infants.
As opposed to open surgery which requires a large incision and several days in the hospital, laparoscopic surgery requires a shorter hospital stay, usually only a day or two. There is less pain after surgery because there is no large incision to heal. Most people are able to get back to their normal routine in about two to three weeks instead of the four to six weeks of recovery open surgery requires.
Surgical procedures to treat GERD can sometimes also be performed using endoscopic techniques. An endoscope is a flexible tube with a small camera that is inserted down the patient's throat. These techniques involve putting stitches in the LES to create pleats that help strengthen the muscle or using electrodes to create tiny burns on the LES. When the burns heal, the scar tissue helps toughen the muscle. The longterm effects of these procedures are unknown.