Reflux After Bariatric Surgery

10 August 2018
Reflux after Bariatric Surgery

What is Acid Reflux?

Acid reflux occurs when acids and food that belong in the stomach tracks back up into the oesophagus due to muscle weakness in the top of the stomach.

Causes of acid reflux include:

  • Weakness in the muscles at the top of the stomach that connects to the oesophagus.
  • Some medications – consult with your doctor if your medication has the side effect of acid reflux
  • Being overweight
  • Complications from bariatric surgery such as hiatal hernia
  • Pregnancy
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Smoking

What is GERD?

If you experience acid reflux more than twice a week, it may be a sign of GERD.

GERD stands for gastroesophageal reflux disease. The main symptom of GERD is persistent heartburn. The stomach acid can be very damaging to the oesophagus, which can be very painful and cause further issues.

Bariatric surgery is often used to relieve GERD symptoms. However, if there is a complication from the bariatric surgery, GERD may worsen after the surgery. You must notify your doctor if this is the case.

What Causes Reflux After Bariatric Surgery?


Some bariatric surgeries will relieve acid reflux. However, certain procedures such as gastric sleeve and lap band surgeries can lead to reflux.


Up to 20% of patients will develop reflux after gastric sleeve surgery. There are many reasons for this; the surgery itself causes some disruption to the mechanisms that prevent reflux. For example, gastric sleeve surgery decreases the pressure at the junction where the stomach joins the oesophagus. The pressure in the stomach increases as the stomach size is reduced. Therefore, there is more pressure pushing acid upwards, and the muscles keeping it down are weakened, making acid reflux more common.

After bariatric surgery, acid reflux can also be associated with surgical complications such as hiatus hernia or dilated gastric fundus of the sleeve gastrectomy. In lap band surgery, there can be slippage of the band or oesophageal dysfunction.

Ultimately, there can be many reasons behind your acid reflux after bariatric surgery, so it is essential to consult with your surgeon if the reflux is persistent.

How do we Treat Reflux?

It is crucial to figure out exactly what is causing the reflux. We do this by specialised tests like gastroscopy and barium swallow. Once a diagnosis is confirmed, then are many treatment options.

Treatment options include:

  • Medication: medications may be used that reduce stomach acid, such as Nexium or Somac.
  • Diet: acid reflux may become worse with certain foods. Ask your surgeon or take a visit to a dietician for advice on meal plans to alleviate reflux.
  • Surgical options: a surgical repair may be needed. This may include a hiatus hernia repair, conversion to Roux en Y gastric bypass, or possible removal of the gastric band. This option may sound radical. The need for this will differ from patient to patient. Mr. Siva Gounder will be with you every step of the way to talk you through this option.

Perth Weight Loss Surgery Can Help With Your Reflux

Reflux can be a symptom of many different issues. However, it is very treatable and easy to manage with the right approach.

If you are experiencing reflux, please do not hesitate to make an appointment with our highly experienced team. Give us a call on 08 6155 8822 or book an appointment online.

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