Get relief from GERD pain

November 14, 2023 Swedish Digestive Health Team


In this article:

  • Millions of Americans experience the burning pain of GERD each year.

  • If medicines don’t relieve GERD pain, surgery might help protect your esophagus from acid reflux.

  • Swedish experts offer the latest surgical and non-surgical treatments for GERD to ensure you get the right care for your needs.

Almost 20% of American adults experience the burning of gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD). GERD, also known as heartburn and acid reflux, is more than just a little heartburn around the holidays; it’s repeated heartburn all year round with uncomfortable symptoms like:

  • A burning feeling in the upper abdomen or behind the breast bone after eating that can get worse when you lie down.
  • Regurgitation (food and/or stomach acid coming back up into your mouth) .
  • Chest pain.
  • Trouble swallowing.

Fortunately, new treatments mean that even people with the most severe GERD don’t have to live in pain. You can find relief.

The GERD treatment path

When you first visit your doctor about GERD, they’ll recommend both lifestyle changes and medicine, like proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). PPIs help block stomach acid production, preventing reflux and letting your esophagus heal.

You can also make simple lifestyle changes that can go a long way in preventing GERD symptoms, such as:

  • Eat smaller meals and try to slow down your eating.
  • Avoid eating three hours before bedtime.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Avoid foods that can trigger GERD, such as alcohol, chocolate, caffeine or foods high in fat.
  • Don’t lie down after a meal.

After you have been taking the medicine for a while and your esophagus has had a chance to heal, your doctor will wean you off the medicine. Many people will no longer have symptoms of GERD. But if your symptoms do come back, you might need testing.

Diagnostic tests include:

  • Endoscopy, which uses a small camera placed through your mouth to examine your esophagus.
  • Barium swallow, an X-ray test that uses a special dye to let your doctors see your esophagus and stomach work.
  • pH testing, which uses either a small tube placed through your nose or a wireless capsule attached to your esophagus, to measure the amount of acid that travels back up your esophagus.
  • Manometry, a test that measures how well your esophageal muscles move when you swallow.

“These tests confirm a diagnosis of GERD and help us understand why a patient still has trouble with acid reflux,” says Brian Louie, M.D., thoracic surgeon at Swedish. “We can create a treatment plan based on that.”

Surgical treatments for GERD

If medicines aren’t working or tests reveal severe esophageal problems, you may be a candidate for surgery. Dr. Louie and his thoracic surgery partners at Swedish offer the latest surgical treatments for GERD.

These treatments focus on strengthening the sphincter, a circular band of muscle at the bottom of your esophagus, that opens and closes to let food through. GERD can damage the sphincter, allowing more and more acid to come back up into your esophagus. Surgery can reinforce the opening, stopping acid from coming back up. Swedish surgeons perform around 400 GERD surgeries a year, including:

  • Nissen fundoplication, which creates a new sphincter by wrapping part of the stomach completely around the lower esophagus, stopping reflux of gastric juice into the esophagus.
  • Partial fundoplication, where the surgeon folds the stomach part of the way around the lower esophagus.
  • Magnetic sphincter augmentation (LINX), where the surgeon implants a small “bracelet” of magnetic beads, called LINX, around the lower esophagus to reinforce the sphincter.
  • Transoral incisionless fundoplication (TIF), an advanced endoscopy procedure that allows the provider to bring stomach tissue partially around the esophagus.

“We try to match the patient’s severity of the disease and their personal preferences to the right procedure for them,” says Dr. Louie.

GERD treatment expertise at Swedish

Swedish physicians treat hundreds of patients with GERD each year and offer comprehensive evaluation and treatment. Swedish experts offer the latest, most innovative treatments. “With more than 50 years of combined experience, our team is considered a leader across the nation for anti-reflux surgery,” says Dr. Louie.

Swedish is a destination for GERD care and treatment. Digestive health experts see patients from around the country who travel to Swedish First Hill for GERD treatment. Patients also come from Canada to visit our Digestive Health Institute team seeking the best care possible.

Learn more and find a provider

If you have questions about GERD symptoms and treatments, contact the Swedish Digestive Institute.

Swedish Virtual Care connects you face-to-face with a nurse practitioner who can review your symptoms, provide instruction and follow up as needed. If you need to find a physician, caregiver or advanced care practitioner, you can use our provider directory.

Related resources

Register for a free virtual seminar about GERD surgical treatments

Don’t Let GERD Hijack Your Holidays

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.

About the Author

The Swedish Digestive Health Team is committed to helping you navigate the complexities of the organs and their many functions to find the right treatment for your unique digestive condition.

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