Some physicians – primarily surgeons – recommend that all patients with Barrett’s esophagus should have surgery. This recommendation is based on the belief that surgery is more effective than endoscopic surveillance or ablation of the abnormal tissue followed by treatment with acid-suppressing drugs in have a peek here preventing both the reflux and the cancerous changes in the esophagus. There are no studies, however, demonstrating the superiority of surgery over drugs or ablation for the treatment of GERD and its complications. Moreover, the effectiveness of drug treatment can be monitored with 24 hour pH testing.
PPIs are used when H2 antagonists do not relieve symptoms adequately or when complications of GERD such as erosions or ulcers, strictures, or Barrett’s esophagus exist. Five different PPIs are approved for the treatment of GERD, including omeprazole (Prilosec, Dexilant), lansoprazole ( Prevacid ), rabeprazole ( Aciphex ), pantoprazole ( Protonix ), and esomeprazole ( Nexium ), and dexlansoprazole (Dexilant). A sixth PPI product consists of a combination of omeprazole and sodium bicarbonate ( Zegerid ). PPIs (except for Zegarid) are best taken an hour before meals. The reason for this timing is that the PPIs work best when the stomach is most actively producing acid, which occurs after meals. If the PPI is taken before the meal, it is at peak levels in the body after the meal when the acid is being made.
Moreover, as with any treatment, there is perhaps a 20% placebo effect, which means that 20% of patients will respond to a placebo (inactive) pill or, indeed, to any treatment. This means that 20% of patients who have causes of their symptoms other than GERD (or ulcers) will have a decrease in their symptoms after receiving the treatment for GERD. Thus, on the basis of their response to treatment (the therapeutic trial), these patients then will continue to be treated for GERD, even though they do not have GERD. What’s more, the true cause of their symptoms will not be pursued.
As is often the case, the body has ways to protect itself from the harmful effects of reflux and acid. For example, most reflux occurs during the day when individuals are upright. In the upright position, the refluxed liquid is more likely to flow back down into the stomach due to the effect of gravity. In addition, while individuals are awake, they repeatedly swallow, whether or not there is reflux. Each swallow carries any refluxed liquid back into the stomach. Finally, the salivary glands in the mouth produce saliva, which contains bicarbonate. With each swallow, bicarbonate-containing saliva travels down the esophagus. The bicarbonate neutralizes the small amount of acid that remains in the esophagus after gravity and swallowing have removed most of the acidic liquid.