Oesophageal reflux is a common condition. Reflux is commonly caused by “faulty” valve at the bottom of the oesophagus that allows acid from the stomach to escape up into the oesophagus (or “food pipe”). Stomach acid is as strong as battery acid, which explains the severe discomfort that reflux can cause.
Acid reflux is typically a normal bodily function, and the majority of people with reflux have their symptoms controlled by simple lifestyle changes or medications and do not require surgery. Symptoms of reflux can vary from heartburn, to a painful cough, difficulty swallowing or even bleeding. A variety of medications to treat these conditions are widely available.
Another significant cause of reflux is a hiatus hernia. The oesophageal hiatus is a hole in the diaphragm that the oesophagus passes through on the way to meeting the stomach in the abdomen. The hiatus has a thick clasp of muscle that holds and squeezes the lower oesophagus helping to prevent reflux. When someone develops a hiatus hernia, this muscular clasp on the oesophagus stretches open widely and the stomach gets pushed into the chest.
Small hiatus hernias are a cause of reflux, and large hiatus hernias can cause difficulty swallowing, chest pain, bleeding and can compress the heart leading to severe shortness of breath after eating or minor exercise.
People who have ongoing problems with reflux despite adequate medical treatment can be assessed for surgery which has a very good chance of removing most or all of their symptoms. The operation used to treat reflux is Fundoplication; when performing this operation we first fix any hiatus hernia that has developed, then create a new one-way valve at the bottom of the oesophagus to prevent acid from entering.
We offer diagnostic tests for reflux and swallowing disorders. If you would like to know more about our Oesophageal Physiology (reflux testing) or would like to speak to somebody about an on-going issues relating to acid-reflux, then please contact one of our experienced team today.