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CONTACT: TOM MOORE
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E-mail: tom-moore@uiowa.edu

Release: May 6, 1999

Effective surgical treatment for acid reflux available at UIHC

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- We see advertisements for prescription medications, but now one company has begun to advertise a surgical technique.

The technique is called Nissen laparoscopic fundoplication. It's used to treat gastro-esophageal reflux disorder (GERD), also called acid reflux. The disorder occurs when the valve between the stomach and the esophagus does not close properly, allowing stomach acid to reflux, or flow back up into the esophagus, producing the sensation known as heartburn. Over the course of time, GERD can result in scarring of the esophagus and may possibly lead to esophageal cancer.

"Fortunately, we have an effective surgical treatment for acid reflux," said James Maher, M.D., University of Iowa professor of surgery and a surgeon in the Digestive Disease Center at the UI Hospitals and Clinics. "A Nissen fundoplication, in which we build up the tissues around the lower opening of the esophagus, prevents stomach acid from refluxing back up into the esophagus."

At one time, surgeons had to make a large incision in the abdomen to reach the esophageal opening to the stomach. Approximately seven or eight years ago, a new technique, the one now being advertised, became available.

Nissen laparoscopic fundoplication involves making several small incisions, each about a third of an inch or so long, in the abdomen. Through one of those tiny openings, surgeons insert a telescopic camera that allows them to see the esophagus and stomach. They then use the remaining incisions to insert their surgical instruments and perform the surgery.

"We've had a great deal of success with this approach," Maher said. "It is effective at preventing acid reflux, and patients generally have less pain and recover more quickly than those who receive a large abdominal incision."

People who frequently experience the symptoms of acid reflux, such as pain and burning, and routinely need to take antacids, should consult their physician. Certain cases may require surgical treatment, which can relieve their symptoms and may also reduce their risk for cancer of the esophagus.