A burning sensation in the chest, sour taste in the mouth, frequent burping, soreness in the throat, and chest pain that may be mistaken for a heart attack are just some of the symptoms that people suffering from GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) must deal with on a regular basis (more than twice a week!). Fortunately, most cases of mild GERD can be controlled by taking the following measures:
- Avoiding known triggers such as fried & fatty foods, coffee, alcohol, citrus fruits, & tomato products
- No smoking
- Decreasing meal portion sizes
- Elevating the head of the bed by about 6 inches
- Not lying down for 3 hours after eating
- Losing excess weight
- Over-the-counter antacid medication
When GERD symptoms are very severe and not controlled by over-the-counter medication, evaluation by a doctor or a gastroenterologist is warranted to identify any underlying problem such as significant damage to the lining of the esophagus or the presence of a hiatal hernia.
A hiatal hernia occurs when a part of the stomach moves up into the chest through the opening in the diaphragm known as the hiatus. A small hiatal hernia may not cause any problems and is often only discovered as an incidental finding during a routine health checkup or during an investigation for some other condition.
However, a large hiatal hernia can worsen GERD symptoms and disrupt routine activities negatively impacting quality of life. There is also a risk of strangulation of the part of the stomach that has squeezed into the chest cavity through the diaphragm.
A fundoplication surgery and repair of hiatal hernia is considered the definitive treatment for hiatal hernia complicated by GERD when conservative medical therapy is not resolving symptoms. It is a minimally invasive laparoscopic repair procedure that is quite effective across most patient populations. Advanced robotics may also be utilized by specially-trained surgeons to ensure a high level of precision and minimal complications. Most patients can return home the very next day after surgery to continue their routine activities having successfully repaired the hiatal hernia and experiencing relief from the symptoms of GERD.