Putting out the fire of acid reflux

The annoying and sometimes painful feeling you get following a delicious dinner may need more than a simple indigestion tablet

Acid reflux, also known as GORD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), is a condition in which food or stomach acid comes back up into the oesophagus (the tube from your mouth to the stomach). This is caused by a lax sphincter muscle at the bottom of the oesophagus where food first enters the stomach, says consultant general surgeon Paul Super of Spire Parkway Private Hospital in Solihull.

Symptoms can include a bitter taste in the mouth, burning sensation in the throat or chest (heartburn), feeling gassy and burping or it may leave you finding it hard to swallow. It can contribute to hoarseness, chronic cough, asthma and for many it is the most common reason for chronic indigestion.


Improving your diet may help improve the symptoms of reflux ¬¬– coffee, alcohol, chocolate, fatty or spicy foods and large meals can aggravate acid reflux, as well as being overweight and being a smoker. It is worth improving these areas generally for overall better health but it is not guaranteed to resolve the issue of acid reflux, especially if there are other issues such as a hiatus hernia adding to the problem.

This occurs when the opening in the diaphragm, becomes too wide allowing the stomach to slip up into the chest. This means that your stomach is higher than normal and acid easily comes back up the oesophagus. This hernia may make acid reflux more likely, however a hiatus hernia may occur without reflux and reflux may occur without a hiatus hernia. Commonly, these two do co-exist and when surgery is needed, they are usually treated together.


When surgery is required for acid reflux, one of the most common procedures is called fundoplication. This is a day case procedure performed under general anaesthetic. If a hiatal hernia is present, it is repaired by stitching the hiatus (opening in the diaphragm) to make the hole for the food pipe smaller. This takes just five minutes. The surgery takes around 40 minutes to repair a hiatus hernia and perform the fundoplication, depending whether a large hiatus hernia is present. Most hiatal hernias are small.

The benefits of surgery include things like no more pills, no breakthrough indigestion and heartburn. In addition, for many patients their respiratory and ENT type symptoms of cough, asthma, sore throat and hoarseness may be better. The benefits are long lasting with recurrence rates of reflux around one or two per cent at five years.


The usual side effects are weight loss for about a month (usually about 3kg to 5kg) due to having stomach surgery. Following surgery burping may be difficult meaning more wind goes through your bowel if you swallow lots of air at mealtimes (eating quick, not chewing, talking a lot etc). Patients can return home the same day with a follow-up appointment arranged to see your consultant for a post-op check-up at about four weeks. You will need between one and two weeks off work though you can go back sooner if necessary.

For more information contact Spire Parkway Private Hospital, 0121 704 5530 www.spirepakway.com