Harvard Men's Health Watch

Heartburn surgery outlasts drugs

Surgery for chronic heartburn relieves symptoms better than medication even after five years, according to a study in BMJ. Acid-reducing medications curb the symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), in which caustic stomach contents back up (reflux) into the throat. Some men who don't want to take medication indefinitely could have a procedure, called fundoplication, to tighten up the base of the esophagus and reduce reflux. Surgery relieves GERD symptoms quickly, but does it last?

To find out, researchers compared two groups of people treated for GERD. One group was offered fundoplication and the others were kept on medication. After five years, those who had surgery reported fewer symptoms, and only a low percentage had complications. Surgery for GERD comes with a small risk of complications, so it should be considered carefully as a medication alternative. But for those who do choose fundoplication, this study suggests, surgery works better over the long term than medication.

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