We asked specialist consultant upper GI and bariatric surgeon Mr Omar Khan to give us an up-to-date overview of the treatment options available if you have acid reflux, including some of the latest procedures practised at a handful of clinics in the UK.
Acid reflux, otherwise known as heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GORD) is a chronic condition where stomach acid passes into the oesophagus, causing a variety of symptoms including pain and regurgitation. It affects approximately 20% of the population.
If you’ve tried to make lifestyle changes to tackle the symptoms but have been unsuccessful, you may need medical treatment. Treatment for acid reflux has improved significantly in recent years, and now there are a wide range of options:
Medication for acid reflux is effective for many patients. Antiacids can be purchased over the counter and work by neutralising your stomach acid. If this doesn’t work, you can ask your doctor for alternative medication such as foaming agents or H2 medication that is stronger than antiacids. You’ll usually need to take this medication for a couple of months, and possibly in the long term if it’s effective.
However, if you have severe symptoms which are interfering significantly in your life, your doctor might recommend surgery.
Until recently, surgery for acid reflux has normally involved a major abdominal operation called fundoplication. The procedure effectively wraps the stomach around the oesophagus, and is commonly known as anti-reflux surgery.
Unfortunately, there are often side effects to the procedure, including difficulty eating solid foods or excessive bloating. Some patients may need further surgery to loosen the wrap.
For this reason, there is increasing interest in less invasive approaches.
LINX Reflux Management
The LINX reflux management system is a minimally-invasive surgical procedure which involves inserting a magnetic barrier ring around the base of the oesophagus. This helps to stop the acid in your stomach from travelling back up the oesophagus. The major advantage of this procedure is that patients can eat a normal diet afterwards.
The LINX reflux management system takes about an hour to install. At the moment, there are a small number of surgeons in the UK practising the technique but this is predicted to grow.
The STRETTA procedure
STRETTA is another new procedure involving inserting an endoscope via the mouth and strengthening the muscles around the bottom part of the oesophagus. This is done with electromagnetic waves that create radiofrequency energy to cause inflammation and to thicken the stomach lining, affecting the nerves there.
This technique has the advantage of avoiding any incisions and can even be done without the need for general anaesthesia.
Mr Omar Khan is a leading consultant GI surgeon and one of two surgeons in London offering both Linx and STRETTA for acid reflux management. To book a consultation with Mr Omar Khan, click here.