Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease Treatment

The Heartburn and Acid Reflux Program at South Texas Health System McAllen offers innovative treatments that can reduce chronic heartburn symptoms, as well as chest or throat discomfort.

Learn about treatment options >

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), also known as Acid Reflux Disease, affects about 20 percent of the US population.* While over-the-counter antacids and prescription medications may provide adequate relief of symptoms for occasional to moderate heartburn sufferers, there are over 1 million people in the US for whom no amount of medication will provide relief.

Make an Appointment for GERD Treatment

Luis Reyes, MD, FACS, FASMBS, is Medical Director of Bariatrics at South Texas Health System Heart. Dr. Reyes has been performing surgery for over 15 years and specializes in general, vascular and weight-loss surgery. To make an appointment with Dr. Reyes, please contact Valley Care Clinics Weight Loss Surgery Center at 956-630-4161.

To make an appointment with Gastroenterologist Dr. Ralph Alhalel, please call 956-661-9300.

What is GERD?

GERD occurs when stomach acids or intestinal bile leak back from the stomach into the esophagus (the tube that runs from the mouth to the stomach), a process called gastroesophageal reflux. Reflux can irritate the esophagus, cause heartburn and other symptoms and can damage the esophagus.

If left untreated, reflux may lead to respiratory problems, ulceration of the esophagus or even esophageal cancer.

GERD Symptoms

Heartburn is the most common GERD symptom, but other symptoms may include:

  • Asthma-like symptoms
  • Belching
  • Bloating
  • Burning in the mouth, throat or abdomen
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Difficulty sleeping after eating
  • Excessive throat clearing
  • Hoarseness
  • Indigestion
  • Persistent cough
  • Regurgitation
  • Sore throat

For many people, symptoms can occur several times a day for years, particularly at night when a person lies down to go to sleep. Diet and lifestyle may make a person more susceptible to GERD. Consumption of fried, fatty or spicy foods, caffeinated beverages, alcohol and chocolate, as well as obesity, pregnancy, smoking and the natural aging process can worsen the symptoms of GERD.

Barrett’s Esophagus

Prolonged acid reflux can result in chronic inflammation of the esophagus and a change in its lining, a condition known as Barrett’s esophagus. This condition increases the risk for esophageal cancer, which can grow rapidly.

Learn More about Barrett's Esophagus

GERD Treatment Options

Medication and Lifestyle Changes

Medication, diet and lifestyle changes are the most common treatment options for GERD. Dietary and lifestyle changes may help people who experience infrequent symptoms. While prescribed medications and over-the-counter medications, like proton pump inhibitors, can provide temporary relief, they typically do not solve the problem or halt progression of disease. Even with medications, you may still need to restrict your diet.

Get relief without surgical incisions with Transoral Incisionless Fundoplication (TIF)

Transoral Incisionless Fundoplication (TIF) is a new surgical procedure that offers relief from acid reflux without surgical incisions. Luis Reyes, MD, FACS, FASMBS and Ralph Alhalel, MD, Gastroenterologist, are the only physicians in South Texas who currently perform the procedure. TIF is a less invasive restoration of the anti-reflux barrier that does not require internal incisions or dissection. Most patients are able to return home the next day and return to work and normal activities within a few days.

Learn More about TIF

Antireflux Surgery

Chronic GERD sufferers for whom medications and diets do not help may benefit from anti-reflux surgery.

Other Minimally Invasive Surgeries

Other minimally invasive GERD procedures include the following:

The EndoCinch System™, like a tiny sewing machine, is attached to the end of a standard, flexible endoscope or tube. It allows the physician to create pleats in the soft tissue of the esophagus and stomach (called the lower esophageal sphincter or LES) that prevent acid from flowing out of the stomach and into the esophagus. EndoCinch does not require an incision and is performed on an outpatient basis. 

Videoscopic Surgery
Using surgical instruments inserted through five small incisions in the abdomen and guided by images from within the body, surgeons wrap a portion of the stomach around the lower esophageal sphincter to prevent the flow of acid into the esophagus. The minimally-invasive procedure is less traumatic than traditional surgery. In most cases, videoscopic surgery reduces scarring and shortens hospital stays and recovery time. 

Robotic Surgery
A Belsey Mark IV Fundoplication can be performed laparoscopically using the da Vinci® robot and is associated with good reflux control and fewer issues with swallowing.

Traditional Surgeries
Surgeons have used invasive procedures such as the Nissen Fundoplication to provide an effective therapy for acid reflux. In this procedure, the surgeon uses stitches to wrap the upper part of the stomach around the end of the esophagus. This helps prevent stomach acid and food from flowing up into the esophagus. Nissen Fundoplication and similar surgeries, while effective in treating GERD, have declined in popularity because of their invasive nature.

Individual results may vary. There are risks associated with any surgical procedure. Talk with your doctor about these risks to find out if robotic surgery is right for you.

*Source: US Department of Health and Human Services