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Laparoscopic Anti-reflux

If you suffer from "heartburn", technically referred to as gastrooesophageal reflux disease (GORD), your surgeon may have recommended laparoscopic anti-reflux surgery to treat this condition.

What is gastrooesophageal reflux disease (GORD)?

Although "heartburn" is often used to describe a variety of digestive problems, in medical terms, it is actually a symptom of gastrooesophageal reflux disease. In this condition, stomach acids reflux or "back up" from the stomach into the oesophagus. Heartburn is described as a harsh, burning sensation in the area in between your ribs or just below your neck. The feeling may radiate through the chest and into the throat and neck. Many adults in the UK experience this uncomfortable, burning sensation at least once a month. Other symptoms may also include vomiting, difficulty swallowing and chronic coughing or wheezing.

What causes GORD?

When you eat, food travels from your mouth to your stomach through a tube called the oesophagus. At the lower end of the oesophagus is a small ring of muscle called the lower oesophageal sphincter (LOS). The LOS acts like a one-way valve, allowing food to pass through into the stomach. Normally, the LOS closes immediately after swallowing to prevent stomach juices, which have a high acid content, coming back up into the oesophagus. GORD occurs when the LOS does not function properly, allowing acid to flow back and burn the lower oesophagus. This irritates and inflames the oesophagus, causing heartburn and eventually may damage the oesophagus. Some people are born with a naturally weak sphincter (LOS). For others, fatty and spicy foods, certain types of medication, tight clothing, smoking, drinking alcohol, vigorous exercise or changes in body position (bending over or lying down) may cause the LOS to relax, causing reflux. A hiatal hernia (a common term for GORD) may be present in many patients who suffer from GORD, but may not cause symptoms of heartburn.

GORD is generally treated in three steps:

Lifestyle changes

In many cases, changing diet and taking over-the-counter antacids can reduce how often and how harsh your symptoms are. Losing weight, if you are overweight, reducing or eliminating smoking and alcohol consumption, and altering eating and sleeping patterns can also help.

Drug therapy

If symptoms persist after these lifestyle changes, drug therapy may be required. Antacids neutralize stomach acids and over-the-counter medications reduce the amount of stomach acid produced. Both may be effective in relieving symptoms. Prescription drugs may be more effective in healing irritation of the oesophagus and relieving symptoms.
This therapy needs to be discussed with your surgeon.


Patients who do not respond well to lifestyle changes or medications or those who continually require medications to control their symptoms, will have to live with their condition or may undergo a surgical procedure. Surgery is very effective in treating GORD.

Advantages of thelaparoscopic (keyhole) method

The advantage of the laparoscopic approach is that it usually provides:
- Reduced post-operative pain - Shorter hospital stay
- A faster return to work
- Improved cosmetic result

What should I expect before the laparoscopic anti-reflux surgery?

After your surgeon reviews with you the potential risks and benefits of the operation, you will need to provide written consent for surgery.

Pre-operative preparation includes blood tests, medical evaluation, possibly a chest x-ray and an ECG depending on your age and medical condition.

What should I do to prepare for surgery?

It is recommended that you shower the night before or morning of the operation.
After midnight the night before the operation, you should not eat or drink anything except medications that your surgeon has told you that you are allowed to take with a sip of water on the morning of surgery.
Drugs such as aspirin, blood thinners, anti- inflammatory medications (arthritis medications) and Vitamin E will need to be stopped temporarily for several days to a week before surgery.
Dietary supplements or St. John’s Wort should not be used for the two weeks before surgery.
Quit smoking and arrange for any help you may need at home.

What will happen on the day of surgery?

You usually arrive at the hospital on the morning of the operation.You will be under general anesthesia (asleep) during the operation which may last several hours.Following the operation you will be taken to the recovery room until you are fully awake.Patients are increasingly able to go home on the same day as the operation (day case, around two thirds of patients) or can expect to stay in the hospital overnight after surgery. Rarely you may require additional days in the hospital. If you are discharged the same day as having a general anaesthetic or sedation, you must have a relative or friend to stay with you for the first 24 hours.

How is laparoscopic anti-reflux surgery performed?

Laparoscopic anti-reflux surgery (commonly referred to as Laparoscopic Nissen Fundoplication) involves reinforcing the "valve" between the oesophagus and the stomach by wrapping the upper portion of the stomach around the lowest portion of the oesophagus - much the way a bun wraps around a hot dog.
In a laparoscopic procedure, surgeons use small incisions (1⁄4 to 1⁄2 inch) to enter the abdomen through ports (narrow tube-like instruments). The laparoscope, which is connected to a tiny video camera, is inserted through the small incision, giving the surgeon a magnified view of your internal organs on a television screen.
The entire operation is performed "inside" after the abdomen is expanded by inflating gas into it.

Am I a candidate for the laparoscopic method?

Although laparoscopic anti-reflux surgery has many benefits, it may not be appropriate for some patients. Obtain a thorough medical evaluation by a surgeon qualified in laparoscopic anti-reflux surgery, in consultation with your GP, to find out if the technique is appropriate for you.

What should I expect after surgery?

You are encouraged to engage in light activity while at home after surgery.
Post operative pain is generally mild although some patients may require prescription pain medication.
Medication will be given in liquid or syrup form.
Anti-reflux medication may be continued for up to 4 weeks after surgery, although most patients will not have symptoms.
There will be some dietary changes needed after surgery beginning with liquids followed by a gradual move to solid foods. This usually takes 3-4 weeks. This is discussed at the end of this booklet.
You will probably be able to get back to your normal activities within a short amount of time. These activities include showering, driving, walking up stairs, lifting, working and engaging in sexual intercourse. Your insurance company should be informed about your operation and they will advise you when you will be insured to drive again (usually after a week or so).

What if the operation cannot be done by the laparoscopic method?

In a small number of patients the laparoscopic method is not possible because of the inability to see or handle the organs effectively. Factors that may increase the possibility of converting to the "open" procedure may include obesity, a history of prior abdominal surgery causing dense scar tissue, or bleeding problems during the operation. The decision to perform the open procedure is a judgment decision made by your surgeon either before or during the actual operation. When the surgeon feels that it is safest to convert the laparoscopic procedure to an open one,this is not a complication, but rather sound surgical judgment. The decision to convert to an open procedure is strictly based on patient safety.

Are there side effects to this operation?

Studies have shown that the vast majority of patients who undergo the procedure are either symptom-free or have significant improvement in their GORD symptoms. Long-term side effects to this procedure are generally uncommon. Some patients develop temporary difficulty swallowing immediately after the operation. This usually resolves within one to three months after surgery
Occasionally, patients may require a procedure to stretch the oesophagus (endoscopic dilation) or rarely re-operation.
The ability to belch and/or vomit may be limited following this procedure. Some patients report stomach bloating, or feeling‘full’ quickly, particularly after eating.
It is common to pass more wind afterwards.• Rarely, some patients report no improvement in their symptoms..

Complications of Surgery

Although the operation is considered safe, complications may occur as they may occur with any operation. Complications may include, but are not limited to:
- adverse reaction to general anaesthesia
- bleeding
- injury to the oesophagus, spleen, stomach or internal organs - infection of the wound, abdomen, or blood.
Your surgeon will discuss these with you. They will also help you to decide if the risks of having laparoscopic anti- reflux surgery are less than those of not having surgery.

Is there anything I should look out for when I go home?

Be sure to call your doctor, surgeon or the hospital ward you were discharged from if you develop any of the following:
- Persistent fever over 39oC
- Bleeding
- Increasing abdominal swelling
- Pain that is not relieved by your medications
- Persistent nausea or vomiting
- Chills
- Persistent cough or shortness of breath
- Pus from any wound
- Redness surrounding any of your wounds that is worsening or getting bigger - You are unable to eat or drink liquids
If you have any concerns you should contact your consultant's secretary or the ward you were discharged from for advice.

Dietary Advice

Following surgery, swallowing may be difficult because of swelling around the oesophagus (food pipe). It may take a month or more for swallowing to feel normal again with all foods. If your swallowing has not improved after this time contact your consultant's secretary.
Four stages of diet are advised. In each stage, when swallowing feels normal, you can move on to the next stage. The exact time for progressing through the stages varies from person to person. Do not move onto the next stage before you are ready. Whilst you are on stages 2 and 3 you should take a chewable complete A-Z multivitamin and mineral supplement until you are able to eat a normal diet. These supplements can be bought at the chemist, supermarket or on the internet and the following brands would be suitable:

- Bassett's Soft and Chewy (raspberry flavour) - one per day
- Centrum Chewables - two per day
- Boots Chewable A-Z multivitamins and minerals - two per day
- Superdrug A-Z Chewable Mutlivitamin and Minerals - two per day

Most importantly
- Have small frequent meals and snacks, rather than large meals
- Eat slowly and chew foods well
- Have moist foods with extra sauce, gravy or custard
- If you are not able to eat very much, remember to include plenty of milky drinks and nourishing snacks
- If you feel unable to eat a meal or snack, have a nourishing drink instead, such as milk, milkshake or creamy soup
- Eat in an upright position as gravity will help food go down more easily
- Avoid drinking large amounts of fluids 30 minutes before meals as this may fill you up. If you need to drink with meals to help the food go down, choose a nourishing drink such as milk.
- If any food sticks, stop eating, relax and allow time for food to clear. Try to have a drink to wash the food down; if that fails, try some soda water. If food remains stuck, contact the hospital ward or your surgeon.
Avoid the following until you are swallowing without difficulty (usually 4-6 weeks) - Fresh bread
- Cake
- Grilled and fried meat, especially steak and chicken (unless pureed, minced or finely chopped)
- Raw stringy or hard vegetables, for example celery, sweetcorn, raw onion or salad - Fried eggs
- Fizzy drinks (unless soda water is required to relieve blockage)
- Nuts and dried fruit
- Highly spiced foods (avoid for 6 weeks)

Stage 1
Normally for 2-5 days
Fluids and semi-fluid items only
These should be smooth with no lumps. A food processor or blender may be useful. Aim for at least 1 pint of milk per day during this stage.
Water, fruit juice,cordial (not fizzy drinks)
Milk, milkshake, smoothies
Tea, coffee, hot chocolate, ovaltine (not too hot) Soups (strained or finely pureed
Ice-cream, custard, jelly, instant whip, creme caramel, egg custard (no pastry)
Smooth full fat yoghurt(not with seeds or pieces of fruit)
Mashed or instant potato (sloppy)
Gravy, white sauce (no lumps)
Food pureed to a thin consistency (no lumps)
Food suggestions
(all meal options can be eaten at any time)
Breakfast ideas
Glass of milk, smooth yoghurt, custard, jelly, tea or coffee, smooth fruit juice
Lunch ideas
Strained soup, finely mashed potato and pumpkin, gravy, white sauce, tomato sauce, jelly, custard,ice- cream, cordial, fruit juice
Dinner ideas
Strained soup, mashed potato, mashed carrot or swede, gravy, cheese sauce, ice-cream, jelly, tea, coffee, fruit juice

Stage 2
Normally for 1-2 weeks
Mashed and very soft foods only
Soft lumps able to be mashed with a fork. If you are still in hospital a soft fork mashable menu is available if there is nothing suitable on the meal trolley. You can still have all the items in stage 1 but also begin to try:
Porridge or breakfast cereals such as Weetabix, Ready Brek, Cornflakes, Rice Krispies, well softened with milk Fruit – fresh fruit (soft well ripened) stewed or tinned fruit (soft or pureed)
Yoghurt - any
Vegetables – well cooked, soft, mashed or pureed Mashed or instant potato
Pasta or noodles - well cooked, soft
Pureed or minced meats including pureed chicken – can be with gravy in a thick soup, or served with mashed/pureed vegetables
Fish - either fresh (take care to remove all bones) or tinned (mashed, no bones or skin)
Eggs; soft boiled, scrambled, poached – avoid fried eggs
Alternative protein sources; Quorn mince, houmous, lentils
Rice pudding, tapioca, semolina
Food suggestions
(all meal options can be eaten at any time)
Breakfast ideas
Porridge or softened cereal for example weetabix or cornflakes with milk and sugar, soft boiled egg or scrambled egg
Lunch ideas
Smooth soup, maceroni cheese or cottage pie with mashed or pureed vegetables, pureed or mashed fruitor rice pudding with jam, syrup or honey
Dinner ideas
Pureed braised meat or casserole or poached fish fillets with white sauce, mashed potato, pureed vegetables, pureed or mashed fruit, custard

Stage 3
Normallly for 1-2 weeks
Light gfoods with more texture - chew well

You can still have all the items in stages 1 and 2 but also begin to try:
Tender meats, mince,
stews, skinless sausages Poultry, mince or finely chopped Salads
Biscuits, crackers,
crispbreads, breadsticks
Alcohol in small
quantities if desired
Food suggestions
(all meal options can be eaten at any time)
Breakfast ideas
any of the options from stages 1 and 2 plus:
Toast with spreads, baked beans, cheese and tomato
Lunch ideas
any of the options from stages 1 and 2 plus:
Soup, tender braised meat and vegetables, fish in butter sauce, canned spaghetti, lentils and legumes (well cooked), cheese, salad, soft fruit, tinned or fresh
Dinner ideas
any of the options from stages 1 and 2 plus:
Pasta with bolognese sauce, meat casserole, cottage pie, steamed fish, well cooked vegetables, soft fruit, fresh or tinned fruit

Stage 4
Gradual return to normal eating
Gradually add in firmer foods. Try the foods in the ‘avoid list’ in small amounts one by one. Chew these foods well. If you are unable to tolerate them try again in a few days. After about 4 weeks it is hoped that you will be able to eat a full range of foods. However, you are advised to:
Continue with small meals rather than large meals, and have snacks between meals if needed to satisfy your appetite
Continue to chew all foods well
Try to avoid drinking fluids with meals

What should I do if I am losing weight?

Although some weight loss is to be expected, it is important to try to maintain your weight and eat well after your surgery to help your body heal and recover. If you are overweight and want to lose weight, it is best to do this after your recovery and your GP can advise you on this once you are able to eat normally.
If your appetite is poor, you already have a low body weight, or you lose more than half a stone (4kg) of weight in the first two weeks, follow the suggestions below. These will add extra energy to your food until you are able to eat normally and help to meet your nutritional needs:
Breakfast cereals - add one or more of the following to breakfast cereals:
Full fat milk
Full fat yoghurt
Golden, maple or fruit syrups
Soft or smooth pureed fruit in syrup Cream or cream substitute Evaporated or condensed milk Honey
Creamed potato - add one or more of the following to mashed potato:
Butter, margarine, oil or ghee
Cream or cream substitute
Full fat yoghurt, creme fraiche or fromage frais Milk powder
Full cream milk
Grated cheese, cheese, spread or cream cheese
Vegetables - add one or more of the following to vegetables:
Butter, margarine, oil or ghee
Grated cheese, cheese spread or cream cheese
Soups and Sauces - add one or more of the following to soups and sauces:
Cream or cream substitute
Grated cheese, cheese spread or cream cheese Full fat yoghurt, creme fraiche or fromage frais
Soft cooked rice or pasta
Extra meat, poultry or pulses such as lentils or beans
A well cooked egg

Puddings - add one or more of the following to or cream substitute:
Full fat yoghurt, creme fraiche or fromage frais Golden, maple or fruit syrup
Soft or pureed fruit
Evaporated or condensed milk
Dessert sauces
Nourishing fluids
Fortified milk - add four tablespoons (2oz or 55g) of dried milk powder to a small amount of full fat milk to make a paste. Then add further milk to make up to 1 pint. This can be used to make custard, instant desserts, milk puddings, drinks, porridge, soupsor sauces.
Malted drinks (for example Ovaltine or Horlicks), hot chocolate, milky coffee
Milkshakes or smoothies
Creamy soup
Complan or Build-upsoups or shakes (available to buy in mostsupermarkets or chemists)
Other supplements are available such as nurishment, nutrament, sanatogen high protein powder and whey protein based shakes (such as body building products), these are usually highin energy and / or protein which will help to boost intake but are often not nutritionally complete. Check with your doctor or dietitian to see whether these will be appropriate for your needs.

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