Now accepting Telehealth appointments. Schedule a virtual visit.

FINDING THE RIGHT DOCTOR FOR GASTRO-ESOPHAGEAL REFLUX DISEASE (GERD) SURGERY

You are considering surgery for GERD and that requires a surgeon. This is a very important decision because mismanagement of GERD and choosing an inappropriate surgery is essential to its success. Hence, choosing the right surgeon is the most important decision you can make. You probably can rely on the feeling you get when you meet the surgeon as you feel comfortable and trust that surgeon, but ultimately, that doesn’t guarantee they are qualified to manage your particular situation.

What you should consider before you allow a surgeon to operate on you are these 5 ESSENTIAL qualifications.

  1. Experience – there is a significant amount of research that demonstrates proficiency for GERD surgeries is reached and maintained with AT LEAST performing 25 of these surgeries a year. Most GERD surgeons far exceed that, but there are still plenty of patients that have poor outcomes when they proceed with surgeons that don’t reach this benchmark. Surgeons can advertise that they perform these surgeries, but truly do only a few a year. You want to be certain these surgeries are a focus of their practice. For instance, Dr. Leeds and Ward do in the hundreds on an annual basis each.

KEY QUESTION

Ask for the surgeon’s experience with these surgeries on an annual basis.

  1. Training – Diseases of the esophagus, including GERD, is a field of its own. This is separate from all the other types of surgery. Just because a surgeon can operate on the gastrointestinal tract (including stomach, bowel, or colon surgery) doesn’t mean they are proficient on esophageal surgery. There are fellowship training programs (specialization) to become proficient in GERD surgery even prior to starting a practice. This is above the basic training to be a surgeon. These fellowships are generally taught be very respectable and reputable surgeons with years of expertise and research backing their teachings. You should insist on a surgeon being fellowship trained in this type of surgery. There are some exceptions to surgeons that have been “grandfathered” into the field that likely are very proficient in the surgery and have a lot of experience.

KEY QUESTION

You should ask where their specialization was done and if it was done in esophageal surgery.

  1. Research – Being a physician, research is an important method to be a leader in a certain field, and it guarantees physicians know their outcomes. This is extremely important to continue to improve over a career and disseminate information to others. This will likely find your leaders in the field and will help get you to a surgeon that can provide you the best care and outcomes. To find this out, you can simply ask your surgeon at the consultation, but you can also look up the surgeon’s name on Google scholar. You don’t need to be an expert, but you can see the titles of the publications and see if they relate to GERD. Be careful with a glance, some surgeons can have many publications, so you can narrow the search by adding “GERD.”

KEY QUESTION

 

You should ask your surgeon if they have published any research in the field.

  1. Online presence/Social Media – this is an area where you should take extreme precaution. Avoid social media boasts and focus your attention on Google reviews and patient testimonials. We are all aware that the internet provides a forum to profess expertise, but still be aware that merely saying it online doesn’t demonstrate mean it will hold up at the time of surgery. Have caution with online doctor awards such as those you see in magazines and centerfolds. Those are paid for advertisements and carry no actual merit. Practices purchase those types of marketing stunts because they know patients can be fooled by there legitimacy.

KEY QUESTION

 

Reach out to patients that post about surgeons online to hear their stories, good or bad.

 

  1. Follow up – GERD is a chronic disease. It is not like removing a gall bladder or an organ that its removal is the end of your relationship with your surgeon. With GERD, you need a follow up plan. Once surgery is done, that doesn’t mean you are finished being MANAGED. You will need regular follow up and consistent ability to reach their office for advice and keeping them updated on your condition or changes to your condition. If you are told that a surgery is all you need, then that is not a surgeon that you want to operate on you. It is possible in situations that a gastroenterologist will follow you post operatively, but you should have that worked out in advance. GERD surgeons tend to want to be involved in the follow up care and you need to take this into consideration. For instance, Dr. Leeds and Ward follow up with their patients on an annual basis at least to ensure problems are addressed and outcomes are carefully monitored.

KEY QUESTION

Ask your surgeon about your follow up in the short term and long term.

You Might Also Enjoy...

These Things Raise Your Chance of Getting GERD

Could you be at risk for developing gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)? Take a moment to learn more about the most common risk factors and causes for GERD, and how you can protect your digestive health.

Understanding POEM

If you have trouble swallowing, you might need an incisionless surgical procedure known as POEM. Take a few moments to learn what you should know about POEM surgery and how it can support your ability to swallow normally.

The Link Between H. Pylori and Stomach Cancer

Could you be at higher risk for stomach cancer due to common bacteria in your body? Take a moment to learn more about H. pylori bacteria, the link to stomach cancer, and how you can protect your digestive health.

Telltale Symptoms of Zenker's Diverticulum

An esophageal disorder like Zenker's diverticulum needs professional diagnosis and care. Take a few moments to learn more about the signs and symptoms of Zenker's diverticulum, and when you should seek treatment.

What Is a Complete Esophageal Workup?

Could you benefit from a complete esophageal workup? Take a few moments to learn more about how an esophageal exam could help reveal potential health problems, and support your digestive health and wellness.

What Is a GIST Tumor and How Is It Treated?

Could you have a gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST)? This condition can be benign or malignant, but still needs to be checked out by a medical professional. Take a few moments to learn about a GIST.