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Understanding GERD and Fundoplication

GERD stands for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, a digestive disorder where stomach acid frequently flows back into the tube connecting your mouth and stomach. This acid reflux can irritate the lining of your esophagus. In kids, GERD is often due to a less developed lower esophageal sphincter, which might not close properly, allowing stomach contents to rise back into the esophagus.

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Symptoms of GERD in Children

It's important for parents to consult with a pediatrician or a pediatric gastroenterologist if they suspect their child might have GERD, to ensure an appropriate evaluation and treatment plan. At Lee Health, our team of pediatric general surgeons work closely with your child's pediatrician or pediatric gastroenterologist to develop the appropriate surgical intervention for your child.

  • Infants might show signs of discomfort like irritability, excessive crying, arching their back, refusing to eat, failure to gain weight, or respiratory problems such as wheezing or coughing.
  • Older children might complain of heartburn, abdominal pain, frequent vomiting, a persistent cough, sore throat, or a feeling of a lump in the throat.

Pediatric General Surgeons Serving Southwest Florida

What is fundoplication?

Fundoplication is a common, minimally invasive surgery, that leads to that leads to long-term improvements in our pediatric GERD patients. Golisano’s pediatric gastroenterologists recommend it when medications or lifestyle changes aren’t helping kids manage their GERD symptoms. 

This procedure strengthens the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), a muscle that normally stops stomach acid from moving back into the esophagus. During the procedure, your child’s surgeon sews the top of their stomach (the fundus) around their esophagus. That makes a small tunnel of stomach muscle around the esophagus and reinforces the valve between the two parts. That added strength keeps acid from escaping up and allows the esophagus to heal any damage caused by GERD.

Fundoplication surgery is commonly done using a less invasive method called laparoscopic fundoplication, which uses small cuts and special tools. This surgery greatly lessens or gets rid of GERD symptoms and can reduce the need for medications to treat these symptoms.

Is fundoplication safe?

This is an understandable question among parents since fundoplication usually isn’t recommended until other treatment options prove ineffective. Fundoplications are safe and highly effective. They prevent GERD symptoms but come with the same risks associated with any surgery. That’s why our doctors try treating your child’s symptoms with medication or lifestyle changes first; they’re less invasive. Surgeries are scary, but rest assured, our compassionate doctors will be with you and your child on their road to recovery.

Want to learn more about GERD and non-invasive treatments?

Check out Lee Health's Pediatric Gastroenterology Department.

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