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Anti-reflux surgery in the laparoscopic era.

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Department of Surgery, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Gothenburg, S-413 45, Sweden.


The introduction of laparoscopic anti-reflux surgery has led to a renewed interest in the operative treatment of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD). Three groups of patients can be identified who are particularly suited to laparoscopic anti-reflux surgery. Failure to respond to medical treatment has been historically the main determinant for those referred for anti-reflux surgery. With the availability of modern anti-secretory drugs most patients with chronic GORD can control their symptoms adequately by these means. Even effective medical therapy, however, is not without problems. In many patients rapid and consistent relapse of symptoms and oesophagitis occurs on cessation of therapy. Some of these patients do not want to be reliant on a form of medication that has yet to firmly establish its record for safety over many years of continued use. A second readily identifiable group of patients are those who are often described as 'volume refluxers'. They are bothered by persistent fluid regurgitation despite adequate control of their heartburn with acid suppressive drugs. Third there are those individuals who develop oesophageal strictures and those with Barrett's oesophagus and concomitant reflux symptoms and also those with respiratory complications associated with presumed aspiration of gastric juice into the pharynx and into the respiratory tree. The low morbidity associated with laparoscopic surgery that has been achieved in the best modern series means that the pendulum may swing back to surgery and therefore it is even more important that the right operation (fundoplication) is done for the right patient. Failure to create an adequate crural repair behind the wrap is associated with a risk of early post-operative para-oesophageal herniation and proximal wrap migration. The question of tailored anti-reflux surgery based on the pre-operative motor function of the body of the oesophagus is widely applied, although the scientific basis for these selective approaches is rather weak. Partial fundoplication seems to be associated with very low rates of dysphagia and of gas bloat. Assessment of the post-operative result should ideally be done by an independent observer and should consider not only traditional outcome measures but also the impact of surgery on the quality of the patient's life. Investigations on the cost effectiveness of these surgical therapeutic strategies suggest important benefits of surgery, which should be incorporated into the clinical decision process when assessing different long-term management alternatives for patients with chronic GORD.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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