Acid reflux surgery is often necessary for patients experiencing acid reflux or GERD symptoms that persist despite medication and other treatments. The procedure can be performed in several ways, but the purpose is to tighten or shrink the opening between the stomach and the esophagus to prevent food and gastric secretions from leaking upward and triggering reflux or GERD symptoms.
Acid reflux surgery is also clinically referred to as fundoplication. Several types of fundoplication or acid reflux surgery are used to successfully treat acid reflux symptoms.
Traditional or Open Acid Reflux Surgery: To revise the esophagus, the surgeon must make large incisions that damage the nerves, skin, and muscle fibers in the patient’s abdominal area. Patients with acid reflux who undergo conventional surgical procedures often experience more pain, discomfort, healing impairments, and longer recoveries.
Minimally Invasive Options: Laparoscopic and robotic-assisted acid reflux surgeries are less traumatic to patients, enabling them to recover much faster, usually within 2 to 3 weeks. These procedures are often performed as outpatient treatments and patients go home the same day.
Strategies That Can Shorten How Long it Takes to Recover From Acid Reflux Surgery
As with any surgical procedure, treatment adherence is one of the most influential factors on how long it takes to recover and get back to normal. Quicker recovery times are associated with certain types of acid reflux surgeries and patient profiles. Minimally invasive procedures have shorter recovery times. The average recovery time for robotic-assisted fundoplication and laparoscopic anti-reflux surgery procedures is 2 weeks. The recovery period for traditional and more invasive procedures, such as an open fundoplication, is 8 to 10 weeks.
Below are some actions patients can take to lower their risk of complications and recover faster.
Surgery hurts, especially during the first few weeks after the procedure. Pain often brings about the inclination to sit and rest, but too much sedentary behavior can make recovery difficult and lead to complications. Post-operative acid reflux surgery patients should walk and stay active to help eliminate the air trapped inside and prevent complications.
To perform acid reflux surgery, the surgeon must add air and surgical gas into the patient’s stomach to expand it and make enough room to safely work. Though every effort is made to remove the air and gas, some of it gets trapped inside. This eventually passes from the body in the form of flatulence, but it often takes several days to weeks.
Many patients find that walking and staying active helps to speed this process up. Trapped air often feels like gas pain, and these sensations are not easy to deal with. Not only does walking help alleviate the discomfort and amount of surgical gas inside the body, but it also helps strengthen the muscles, optimize circulation, and prevent blood clots and constipation.
Start With Clear Liquids Before Solids
After surgery, it’s a good idea to lay off the solids and start with liquids. Your digestive and abdominal muscles will be sore for a few weeks. Also, the digestive tract needs time to heal before it’s safe to resume processing foods and certain liquids. Until medical authorization is given, it’s best for individuals to follow the acid reflux surgery diet.
That means no solids; only soft, puréed food or liquids are allowed to prevent distress, pain, discomfort, bloating, and other complications. The gradual transition from soft and pureed foods and fluids to solids can take up to 10 weeks. Some individuals may take longer or less time to resume their normal eating habits.
It’s best for acid reflux surgery patients to avoid carbonated beverages and gassy foods, such as broccoli, onions, beans, asparagus, and lactose products. The goal is to decrease the amount of gas trapped inside the body. Consuming the wrong foods or drinks can increase and intensify some of the postoperative effects of acid reflux surgery, such as flatulence, pain, bloating or swelling, and discomfort.
Fluids are lost during fundoplication and, combined with the effects of surgical and prescription medications and incisions made to perform the procedure, temporarily disrupt proper bowel function. The abdominal muscles need time to repair and regain their strength before normal bowel function resumes. Patients should take proper precautions to ensure they meet their daily water intake needs. In addition to strong and healthy abdominal muscles, optimal bowel function requires proper hydration. Proper fluid balance is necessary to prevent sluggish digestive and constipation and enable faster recovery from acid reflux surgery.
Relax to Optimize Acid Reflux Surgery Recovery
Rest is necessary to help the body recover from acid reflux surgery. Everyone’s limits are different, and some acid reflux patients may need more downtime to relax and heal than others. The average time it takes to completely heal and recover from fundoplication is six to eight weeks. Activity restrictions are necessary and should be followed until instructed otherwise. Overexertion is common during the first few days or weeks of surgery. Patients should adjust their behaviors and activities until it is safe to resume them. They should also rest when tired and avoid lifting heavy items, climbing stairs, specific movements, and high-impact activities.
Maintaining realistic expectations about your acid reflux surgery recovery is essential to prevent issues and delays. Before discharge home and throughout recovery, patients receive post-operative treatment, follow-up care, and recovery guidance so the surgeon can monitor their progress. How long it takes patients to recover is dependent on surgery type, patient health, procedure outcome, and how well the patient adheres to their post-operative treatment plan.
Surgery affects everyone differently, and while the average time to recover from anti-reflux surgery hinges on various factors, some risks and issues can prolong recovery or cause treatment failure. Those concerns are patient-specific and discussed prior to scheduling surgery.
To learn more about acid reflux surgery or to discuss concerns about recovery with Dr. Abtin Khosravi, MD, contact Orange County Robotic General Surgery today! Visit our Orange County location at Orange County Robotic General Surgery.
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