Acid reflux is the result of stomach acid coming back up from the stomach and into the esophagus, often causing a burning sensation. Lifestyle changes are most often the first line of treatment. However, if lifestyle modifications are not effective, anti-reflux medication or surgery may be recommended.
One of the most popular types of reflux medication is called a proton pump inhibitor (PPI). This class of medication works by suppressing the production of stomach acid. If heartburn is severe and the medication does not work, then surgery -- specifically, laparoscopic anti-reflux surgery -- may be recommended. This surgery works by wrapping part of the stomach around the esophagus to make it harder for acid to come back up from the stomach.
Several studies have directly compared the rates of success of the two treatments. Most recently, researchers compared the ability of a PPI called esomeprazole against laparoscopic anti-reflux surgery (Hatlebakk et al., 2016).
In their study, the researchers followed patients with chronic reflux disease over five years. The researchers looked at the treatment success rates of 116 people who had the surgery compared to 151 people who took a PPI for reflux treatment. In the surgery group, the average 24-hour acid exposure before treatment was 8.6 percent, 0.7 percent after six months and 0.7 percent after five years. In the PPI group, their 24-hour acid exposure at the beginning of the study was 8.8 percent, 2.1 percent after six months of treatment and 1.9 percent after five years.
While the surgery worked slightly better than the medication, both types of treatment reduced the acid reflux significantly.
All reflux medications and surgical procedures carry at least some risks. Your doctor can help you to decide which type of acid reflux treatment will be right for your condition.
Dr. Tracy Davenport is a health writer, advocate and entrepreneur who has been helping individuals live their best life. She is co-author of Making Life Better for a Baby with Acid Reflux. Follow Tracy’s love of smoothies on Twitter.