Dr. Sharona Ross of the Digestive Health Institute’s Mickle Center for Reflux and Esophageal Disorders has a wealth of experience in treating patients with severe cases of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and laryngopharyngeal reflux. They offer minimally invasive surgeries that cure reflux for a large majority of their patients. After their surgeries, most of these patients no longer need to take anti-acid medications.
Medical Treatment for GERD
Before you can be considered for GERD surgery, you will need to be treated with medicine. Several of DHI gastroenterologists are experts in helping patients manage their GERD through medicine and lifestyle habits such as making diet changes, losing weight and quitting smoking. At first, your doctor might recommend over-the-counter antacids or prescription medications that stop acid production or help the muscles that empty the stomach. Antacids calm down, or neutralize, stomach acid.
Medications that are commonly used to reduce the amount of stomach acid the body makes are H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). These medications work very well, but they should only be taken for a short time. Their long-term use can be harmful. H2 blockers and PPIs have been linked with osteoporosis (bone loss), kidney disease, dementia, heart problems and adverse drug interactions. They also produce effects that can eventually cause esophageal cancer.
Definitive Treatments for GERD
While medical treatment works for some patients, PPIs are not intended for use over long periods. In fact, FDA approval of PPIs is for using them only 6 weeks per year. Therefore patients who respond well to medical treatment, as well as those who do not, should be evaluated for definitive treatment of GERD. A definitive treatment is a more permanent approach that allows patients to stop taking PPIs. For many patients, definitive treatment is an operation that strengthens the valve between the esophagus and the stomach. Patients who cannot have surgery may benefit from endoscopic approaches to treating GERD. While these treatment options are more involved than taking medicine and making lifestyle changes, they can effectively control GERD and help patients avoid the risks associated with PPIs.