The team of surgeons at Cardiothoracic Surgery Associates (CSA) are fellowship-trained and experienced in treating gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which is a digestive disorder that can cause symptoms such as chest pain, heartburn, or regurgitation.

Dr. Jenifer Marks, the head of the GERD team, completed her training at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and also is experienced in treating benign conditions of the esophagus such as GERD and achalasia. Dr. Marks uses minimally invasive procedures to help treat these conditions.

Causes of GERD

GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux, is caused by a gradual failure of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which is the muscle located between the esophagus and the stomach. As the LES weakens over time, the contents of our stomach can reflux back into the lower esophagus. This reflux of acidic gastric contents into the lower esophagus can cause heartburn, regurgitation and chest pain. Medications can help reduce the acid in our stomachs, which helps to reduce the symptoms of heartburn, but the medications do not actually prevent the reflux from happening.

Lifestyle factors that can be associated with GERD include:

  • Frequent use of over-the-counter pain and fever medications
  • Obesity
  • Overeating
  • Regular consumption of caffeine or alcohol
  • Smoking or use of tobacco products

There are also some foods that are known to cause GERD, or make it worse, including:

  • Citrus fruits
  • Chocolate
  • Fried foods
  • Spicy foods

Symptoms of GERD

The most common symptom of GERD is heartburn, which may be accompanied by following:

  • Asthma
  • Burping and bloating
  • Chest pain
  • Chronic cough
  • Excessive throat clearing
  • Hoarseness
  • Indigestion
  • Regurgitation
  • Sour or bitter taste in the throat

At CSA, we’re dedicated to moving quickly to diagnose and treat GERD before more serious conditions can develop. Long-term symptoms and complications of GERD can also include:

  • Asthma attacks
  • Barrett's esophagus
  • Bleeding and scarring of the esophagus
  • Dental problems
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Esophageal stricture

GERD Diagnosis and Treatment

Our CSA physicians will start by asking about your symptoms and medical history, and may recommend additional tests to better understand your diagnosis, disease process, and anatomy. These tests may include an esophageal manometry, EGD, 24-hour pH probe, swallow study or a CT scan. CSA’s team will determine which tests are necessary, if any, for you and provide a full explanation of what to expect with the recommended tests appropriate to your situation.

Once diagnosed, treatments may vary depending on each person’s situation. Lifestyle changes, medications and surgery are all possible options. Lifestyle changes may include losing weight, changing eating habits or diet, and quitting smoking.

If lifestyle changes are not effective in treating GERD, your physicians may recommend or prescribe medications, which can include over-the-counter antacids or prescription medications. These medications could help manage the symptoms, even if they are not a cure for GERD.

Innovative surgical options may also be suggested by your physicians if lifestyle changes or medications are not effective. The most common surgical treatments include:

Recovering from Surgery

Depending on the type of surgery performed to treat GERD, the recovery process may last from a couple of days to a few weeks. While recovering, you will be advised to adhere to certain dietary restrictions so your body can heal properly from surgery. Our team will help ensure a good outcome after your procedure every step of the process.

For more information about GERD treatment or our surgical team, contact us today at (303) 226-4650.