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Brannon Hyde, MD. Gastroesophageal reflux disease and antireflux surgery. Learning objectives. Understand the natural history of reflux disease Understand how to identify candidates for antireflux surgery

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Gastroesophageal reflux disease and antireflux surgery

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learning objectives
Learning objectives
  • Understand the natural history of reflux disease
  • Understand how to identify candidates for antireflux surgery
  • Understand the complications of antireflux surgery and patient’s satisfaction with surgery
why do we care about reflux
Why do we care about reflux?
  • Americansexperience reflux symptoms
    • 44% monthly
    • 20% weekly
    • 4-7% daily
  • Most common gastrointestinal diagnosis on outpatient physician visits
  • Frequency and severity does not predict esophagitis, stricture, or cancer development
definition of gerd
Definition of GERD
  • Montreal consensus panel (44 experts):

“a condition which develops when the reflux of stomach contents causes troublesome symptoms and/or complications”

  • Troublesome—patient gets to decide when reflux interferes with lifestyle

Vakil N, et al. Am J Gastroenterol 2006;101:1900

clinical presentation
Clinical presentation
  • Heartburn
    • 1-2 hours after eating, often at night, antacid relief
  • Regurgitation
    • Spontaneous return of gastric contents proximal to GE jxn; less well relieved with antacids
  • Dysphagia (40%)—difficulty with swallowing should prompt search for pathologic condition
clinical presentation6
Clinical presentation
  • Atypical symptoms (20-25%)
    • Cough
    • Asthma
    • Hoarseness
    • Non-cardiac chest pain
  • Diagnosis based on symptoms alone is correct in only 2/3 patients
  • Differential (ALL CAN KILL YOU!)
    • Achalasia
    • Diffuse esophageal spasm
    • Other esophageal motility disorder
    • Cancer
    • Ulcer disease
    • Coronary artery disease
so i ve got gerd what s going to happen to me
So I’ve got GERD, what’s going to happen to me?
  • Spectrum of disease theory:

Nonerosive disease  erosive disease  Barrett’s  esophageal adenocarcinoma

Am J Gastroenterol 2004;99:946.


3,894 patients had baseline and repeat endoscopy at 2 years, regardless of symptoms.

Conclusion: progression and regression occur despite PPI therapy

ProGERD study

Am J Gastroent 2006;101:2457-62

Severe esophagitis

Mild esophagitis

So I can diagnose it, and I know how bad it can get, but why does heartburn and regurgitation happen in the first place?

Answer: alteration from normal physiology

Normally, the lower esophageal sphincter exists as a zone of high pressure between esophagus and stomach; when the HPZ is lost, reflux occurs


Proximal esophagus


  • Transducer tracing identifies the LES
  • High pressure drops only after a swallow or when fundus is distended with gas (to belch)

Distal esophagus

Distal esophagus

Distal esophagus

Distal esophagus

Relaxation of LES

Gastric baseline

physiology of antireflux barrier
Physiology of antireflux barrier
  • Three components of high pressure zone
    • Absolute pressure
    • Overall length
    • Intra-abdominal length

Overall length shortens as stomach distends, increasing the pressure necessary to maintain competence (neck on a balloon)

physiology of antireflux barrier14
Physiology of antireflux barrier
  • If intra-abdominal length is short, LES pressure can be overcome by small increases in intra-abdominal pressure
  • Increased abdominal pressure needs even distribution over high pressure zone abdominal length to prevent reflux

Normal physiology

If sufficient intraabdominal length is present, squeeze (increased abdominal pressure) will occur around “neck of balloon,” and reflux will not occur

pathophysiology of gerd
Pathophysiology of GERD
  • Fundic distention (overeating) & delayed gastric emptying (high fat)
  • Lower esophageal sphincter is pulled distally by expanding fundus
  • Squamous epithelium exposed to gastric juice
  • Repeated exposure  columnarization
what does my body do to compensate for reflux esophagitis
What does my body do to compensate for reflux esophagitis?
  • Compensation:
    • Increased swallowing  saliva bathes injured mucosa, alleviating discomfort
  • Results in aerophagia, bloating, and belching
  • Distention leads to further repetitive injury to the terminal squamous epithelium in distal esophagus
pathophysiology of gerd19
Pathophysiology of GERD
  • Extension of inflammation into muscularis propria causes progressive loss in length and pressure of the LES—”esophageal shortening”
  • Loss of LES leads to regurgitation, heartburn, and subsequent severe esophagitis
what role does a hiatal hernia play
What role does a hiatal hernia play?
  • Greater gastric dilatation is necessary to open LES in patients with intact angle of HIS compared to those with a hiatal hernia
  • Reflux occurs easier

< 3 cm

> 3 cm

so i have a defective sphincter what complications will i have
So I have a defective sphincter, what complications will I have?
  • Esophagitis (mucosal injury) with or without heartburn
  • Reflux chest pain syndrome
  • Respiratory complications
  • Metaplastic and neoplastic complications
why is esophagitis bad
Why is esophagitis bad?
  • Acid alone does minimal damage, but is highly toxic in combination with pepsin
  • Bile reflux alone does minimal damage, but when coupled with gastric acid, is destructive to esophageal mucosa
  • Decrease acid (with PPI or surgery), and esophageal lining heals
what is reflux chest pain syndrome
What is reflux chest pain syndrome?
  • Heartburn without esophagitis
    • bile salts inhibit pepsin
    • acid pH inactivates trypsin
    • pain comes from acidic gastric juice breaking mucosal barrier and irritating nerve endings
respiratory complications
Respiratory complications
  • Reflux and aspiration of gastric contents induces asthma
    • Correlation between hiatal hernia and pulmonary fibrosis
    • Pathologic acid exposure often seen in proximal esophagus in patients with asthma
    • Simultaneous tracheal and esophageal pH monitoring shows acidification of trachea in concert with esophagus
what metaplastic complications can arise
What metaplastic complications can arise?
  • Norman Barrett (1950) first described the process whereby the esophageal squamous epithelium changes to columnar epithelium
  • Occurs in 7-10% of patients with GERD
  • Factors predisposing to Barrett’s
    • Early-onset GERD
    • Abnormal LES or motility disorder
    • Mixed reflux of gastric and duodenal contents
what are the neoplastic complications
What are the neoplastic complications?

Goblet cells

  • Barrett’s metaplasia harbors dysplasia in 15-25%
  • 5-10% is high-grade dysplasia

High grade dysplasia; structure of glands becoming disorganized

so i understand a little about reflux who needs an operation
So I understand a little about reflux; who needs an operation?
  • Need for continuous drug treatment or escalating dose of PPI
  • Relatively young
  • Financial burden or noncompliance with PPI
  • Patient choice
how do you know i m a candidate for surgery
How do you know I’m a candidate for surgery?
  • Establish GERD as underlying cause of symptoms
  • Estimate risk of progressive disease
  • Determine presence or absence of esophageal shortening
  • Evaluate esophageal body function
how do you know i m a candidate for surgery29
How do you know I’m a candidate for surgery?
  • Factors predictive of successful outcome following antireflux surgery (n = 199)
    • Abnormal score on 24-hour esophageal pH monitoring (p < 0.001)
    • Presence of typical symptoms of GERD (heartburn and regurgitation) (p< 0.001)
    • Symptomatic improvement in response to acid suppressive therapy (p = 0.02)

J Gastrointest Surg 1999;3:292-300

what specific studies do i need preoperatively
What specific studies do I need preoperatively?
  • Endoscopy
  • 24-hour ambulatory pH monitoring
  • Radiograph
  • Esophageal body and gastric function
preoperative evaluation endoscopy
Preoperative evaluation: endoscopy
  • Amounts to the physical examination
    • Strictures or large hiatal hernia may indicate shortened esophagus
  • High-grade dysplasia or a mass in the esophageal, gastric, or duodenal lumen will change management
preoperative evaluation 24 hour ph monitoring
Preoperative evaluation: 24-hour pH monitoring
  • Rationale: gold standard for diagnosis of GERD
  • Quantifies actual time the esophageal mucosa is exposed to gastric juice
  • Measures the ability of the esophagus to clear refluxed acid
preoperative evaluation 24 hour ph monitoring33
Preoperative evaluation: 24-hour pH monitoring
  • Correlates esophageal acid exposure with patients symptoms
  • Without abnormal pH study, surgery is unlikely to benefit
  • Gives a composite score (Johnson-DeMeester score) highly sensitive and specific (>96%) for diagnosing GERD
johnson demeester normal values for esophageal ph 4 n 50
Johnson-DeMeester normal values for esophageal pH < 4 (n = 50)

J Clin Gastroenterol 8(suppl. 1):52-58, 1986.

preop evaluation swallow study
Preop evaluation: swallow study
  • Only 40% of patients with classic symptoms of GERD will have reflux observed on radiography
  • Assess for:
    • Esophageal shortening
    • Hiatal hernia (80%)
    • Paraesophageal hernia
    • Stricture or obstructing lesion
    • Beading or corkscrewing (motility disorders)

Rules out esophageal motility disorders

Esophageal body dysfunction (achalasia or aperistalsis) should change management.

so i have reflux and i think i want surgery what surgery do i have
So I have reflux, and I think I want surgery; what surgery do I have?
  • The most common antireflux operation is the laparoscopic fundoplication
    • Crural dissection, identification and preservation of both vagi
    • 25% have left hepatic artery coming from left gastric artery in the gastrohepatic ligament
    • Circumferential dissection of esophagus
so i have reflux and i want surgery what surgery do i have
So I have reflux, and I want surgery; what surgery do I have?
  • Elements of laparoscopic Nissen
    • Crural closure
    • Fundic mobilization by division of short gastrics
    • Creation of short, loose fundoplication by enveloping anterior and posterior wall around lower esophagus
that operation looks nice are people satisfied with it
That operation looks nice, are people satisfied with it?
  • Patient satisfaction is high (86-97%)
  • Long-term symptom relief (heartburn and regurgitation) in 84-97%
  • Symptomatic failure rate 3-13%
    • heartburn and regurgitation
    • Does not correlate with acidic reflux exposure
      • OPERATION DID NOTHING for 3-13%!

Surgeon, August 2009:224.

how will i feel after that operation
How will I feel after that operation?
  • Bloating and increased flatulence (9-53%)
    • Most common side effect
  • Different scoring systems account for range
  • Pre-operative symptom scores are largely unknown

Surgeon, August 2009:224.

what are the real bad things that can happen to me
What are the real bad things that can happen to me?
  • Review of 10,489 laparoscopic antireflux procedures
  • Complications
    • Wrap herniation (early) 1.3%
    • Pneumothorax 1.0%
    • All others < 1% (perforation, hemorrhage, pneumonia, abscess, splenic injury, trocar hernia, effusion, PE, ulcer, atelectasis, wound infection, MI, splenectomy)

JACS 2001: 193(4); 428-39

how will i feel several months later
How will I feel several months later?
  • Early dysphagia
    • usually transient (<6 weeks)
  • Persistent side effects (>1 month)
    • Bloating 9%
    • Reflux 4%
    • Dysphagia 3%
      • Often poorly defined

JACS 2001: 193(4); 428-39

Surgeon, August 2009:224.

how do patients fare a decade down the line
How do patients fare a decade down the line?
  • 10-year follow-up of 250 patients
    • 83% highly satisfied with outcome
    • 84% had good or excellent control of heartburn
    • 17% revision operation (usually 3-7%)
      • Recurrent hiatal hernia, dysphagia, reflux, bleeding (early takeback protocol for dysphagia)
    • 21% used acid-suppressive medication

JACS 2007;205:570

well do i have to take the purple pill after the operation
Well, do I have to take the purple pill after the operation?
  • Use of acid-suppressive medication after antireflux surgery varies (21-62%)
  • But, only 20-30% with “reflux-like” symptoms after surgery have positive pH studies

JACS 2007;205:570

series are great doc but what about a randomized trial
Series are great, Doc, but what about a randomized trial?
  • Randomized trial comparing treatment of GERD with omeprazole (n = 154) and antireflux surgery (n = 144)
  • Treatment success—no symptoms or esophagitis (p < 0.002):
    • 67% surgical
    • 47% medical
  • Dysphagia, bloating, rectal flatulence common in surgical group

Brit J Surg 2007;94:198.

does surgery offer any benefit to avoiding cancer
Does surgery offer any benefit to avoiding cancer?
  • Cancer risk in patient with reflux symptoms is < 1 in 10,000 per patient year
  • No benefit to avoidance of Barrett’s or adenocarcinoma with surgery compared to PPI therapy
    • Low morbidity and mortality risks associated with laparoscopic antireflux surgery dwarf potential benefit of avoiding cancer

Gastroent 2008;135:1392.

what does all of this mean should i have surgery or not
What does all of this mean, should I have surgery or not?
  • Surgery wins over PPI’s if you don’t mind trading heartburn and reflux for bloating, inability to belch, and excessive flatulence

Not in everybody, BUT IT COULD BE YOU!

  • Nevertheless, 86-97% of patients are satisfied with surgery

Gastroent 2008;135:1392.

doc with all that bloating do you have to make the wrap so tight
Doc, with all that bloating, do you have to make the wrap so tight?



270 degree wrap

Anterior (Dor)

so you don t have to make it so tight great
So you don’t have to make it so tight? Great!
  • Complete fundoplication offers superior protection to reflux
    • Increased incidence of dysphagia, inability to belch, and excessive flatus
  • Partial wraps offer less protection against reflux, but also less symptoms
    • Up to 51% may have pathologic esophageal acid exposure on 24-hour pH monitoring

Surg Endos 1997;11:1080.

so partial wraps really don t help to stop reflux so who needs one
So partial wraps really don’t help to stop reflux; so who needs one?
  • Complete now considered superior to partial even in patients with weak esophageal peristalsis
  • Exceptions:
    • achalasia—anterior wrap utilized with myotomy
    • Aperistalis (ie, scleroderma)
well doc i ve got asthma too how does that influence surgery
Well Doc, I’ve got asthma, too. How does that influence surgery?
  • Once reflux induced asthma is established, PPI therapy is instituted
    • 25-50% have relief of respiratory symptoms
    • <15% have improvement in pulmonary function
  • Antireflux surgery
    • 90% of children and 70% of adults have relief
    • ~33% have improvement in pulmonary function

Am J Gastroenterol 2003;98:987

just to wrap up
Just to wrap up …
  • PPI’s work to control symptoms and esophagitis, but require life-long treatment
  • Successful antireflux surgery is based on abnormal 24-hr pH score, typical GERD symptoms, and symptomatic improvement in response to acid –suppression therapy
  • Having antireflux surgery is a patient-centered decision with a risk:benefit ratio that can really only be weighed by the patient