Heartburn is a burning feeling in the chest caused by stomach acid travelling up towards the throat (acid reflux). Several changes in eating habits can be beneficial in treating GERD. Reflux is worse following meals. This probably is so because the stomach is distended with food at that time and transient relaxations of the lower esophageal sphincter are more frequent. Therefore, smaller and earlier evening meals may reduce the amount of reflux for two reasons. First, the smaller meal results in lesser distention of the stomach. Second, by bedtime, a smaller and earlier meal is more likely to have emptied from the stomach than is a larger one. As a result, reflux is less likely to occur when patients with GERD lie down to sleep.
A third type of endoscopic treatment involves the injection of materials into the esophageal wall in the area of the LES. The injected material is intended to increase pressure in the LES and thereby prevent reflux. In one treatment the injected material was a polymer. Unfortunately, the injection of polymer led to serious complications, and the material for injection is no longer available. Another treatment involving injection of expandable pellets also was discontinued. Limited information is available about a third type of injection which uses gelatinous polymethylmethacrylate microspheres.
Barrett’s esophagus can be recognized visually at the time of an endoscopy and confirmed by microscopic examination of the lining cells. Then, patients with Barrett’s esophagus can undergo periodic surveillance endoscopies with biopsies although there is not agreement as to which patients require surveillance. The purpose of surveillance is to detect progression from pre- cancer to more cancerous changes so that cancer -preventing treatment can be started. It also is believed that patients with Barrett’s investigate this site esophagus should receive maximum treatment for GERD to prevent further damage to the esophagus. Procedures are being studied that remove the abnormal lining cells. Several endoscopic, non-surgical techniques can be used to remove the cells. These techniques are attractive because they do not require surgery; however, there are associated with complications, and the long-term effectiveness of the treatments has not yet been determined. Surgical removal of the esophagus is always an option.
Esophageal motility testing has two important uses in evaluating GERD. The first is in evaluating symptoms that do not respond to treatment for GERD since the abnormal function of the esophageal muscle sometimes causes symptoms that resemble the symptoms of GERD Motility testing can identify some of these abnormalities and lead to a diagnosis of an esophageal motility disorder. The second use is evaluation prior to surgical or endoscopic treatment for GERD. In this situation, the purpose is to identify patients who also have motility disorders of the esophageal muscle. The reason for this is that in patients with motility disorders, some surgeons will modify the type of surgery they perform for GERD.