Maintenance therapy: Is there still a place for antireflux surgery?
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Effective and safe maintenance medical therapy for uncomplicated reflux esophagitis is now feasible with omeprazole and it is likely that other H+K+ATPase blockers, and possibly very high dose H2 receptor antagonist regimens, will also be acceptable. In addition, many patients with ulceration, strictures, and Barrett's esophagus will respond to conservative medical therapy and a proportion of patients with erosive esophagitis may remain in remission with cisapride or with low dose H2 receptor antagonists, if disease is less severe. Thus, there is now a medical "gold standard" against which surgical therapy for uncomplicated esophagitis must be judged and it is essential that all future studies be conducted with clearly defined criteria for the assessment of the symptoms and endoscopic signs of esophagitis and its complications. As ever, the patient's wishes are paramount, but he or she must be allowed to select his or her therapy on the basis of a balanced and fully informed assessment of the long-term and short-term risks of all therapeutic modalities. The burdensome prospect of lifelong tablet ingestion and its potential dangers must be weighed against the alternative, in up to 30% of cases, that surgery may produce dysphagia, gas bloat, or dumping with no guarantee of a long-term cure.
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