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Heartburn Definitions & Vocabulary

Esophageal Regurgitation - The backward flow of food, liquids and / or gas from the stomach into the esophagus. It can backflow up and into the lungs and larynx causing inflammation and damage to the cellular lining of the esophagus, larynx and lungs.

Indigestion - a non specific term used to describe a variety of symptoms caused by improper digestion of food in the stomach. Dyspepsia heartburn is a symptom associated with esophageal reflux. It is usually described as a spasmodic burning sensation below the sternum (breast bone).

Flatulence - passing gas through the anus

Antacid - a chemical agent that neutralizes acid

Barrett's Esophagus - a disorder in which the lining of the esophagus undergoes a change in response to repeated irritation and inflammation from reflux of acid into the esophagus. A patient with Barrett's Esophagus has an increased chance of developing esophageal cancer. The diagnosis is made by taking a biopsy during an upper endoscopy.

Gastroesophageal reflux - the act of the stomach contents with or without acid backing up into the esophagus causing inflammation and damage.

Reflux laryngitis - inflammation of the larynx caused by stomach contents backing up the esophagus to the larynx or vocal cords.

Laringopharyngeal reflux (LPR) - reflux can back up the esophagus into the larynx or voice box. This backup can go back into the lungs. Besides inflammation it can cause serious problems of aspiration and damage tissue in the breathing tube.

Gastric- stomach or having to do with the stomach

Esophagus - the hollow tube that runs from the back of the mouth to the stomach and transports food and liquid to the stomach

GERD - is an acronym for gastro (meaning stomach) esophageal (food tube) reflux disease. It is a disease process characterized by chronic inflammation or damage to the lining of the esophagus and possibly larynx and lungs due to backward flow of acid reflux from the stomach. This can be caused by a transient or permanently incompetent LES.

Hiatal hernia - is a protrusion of the upper portion of the stomach into the chest cavity due to a tear or weakness in the diaphragm ( muscle separating the chest cavity from the abdominal area). Illustration

GER - Gastroesophageal reflux is the term used for acid washing back into the esophagus.

Lower esophageal sphincter - a small band of muscles at the lower end of the esophagus that works as a one way valve to prevent acid reflux.

LES - an acronym for lower esophageal sphincter.

Diaphragm - large sheet-like muscle that separates the chest and abdomen. The esophagus passes through a hiatus in the diaphragm and connects with the stomach. The diaphragm is normally at the same level as the LES. Although it relaxes during a swallow, the diaphragm is normally contracted and believed to assist the LES in preventing reflux.

Hiatus - a natural opening in the diaphragm that allows the esophagus through.

Acid - hydrochloric acid produced in the stomach to break down and digest food.

Bile - is an alkaline fluid secreted by the liver. It is stored in the gallbladder between meals and upon eating is discharged into the duodenum( upper part of the small intestine below the stomach. It aids the process of digestion.

Antacids - Antacids such as Maalox, Mylanta, Gelusil, Rolaids and Tums neutralize stomach acid and can provide quick relief. Antacids alone won't heal an inflamed esophagus damaged by stomach acid. Overuse of some antacids can cause diarrhea or constipation.

H-2 receptor blockers - Instead of neutralizing acid, these medicines such as Tagamet, pepcid, Axid or Zantac, reduce the production of acid. They do not act as quickly as antacids, but provide longer relief.

Proton pump inhibitors - These medications such as Prilosec, Nexium, Prevacid, Protonix and Aciphex block acid production and allow time for damaged esophageal tissue to heal.

Prokinetic agents - the medications such as Cisapride, Metoclopromide and Bethanecol help the stomach empty it's contents rapidly into the small intestine. They may also help the lower esophageal sphincter close tighter.

Antireflux - anything that helps prevent acid from backwashing into the esophagus.

Fundoplication - Nissen is a specific technique of fundoplication. There are other similar but slightly different techniques all with the same purpose of adding strength to the lower esophageal closing.

Nissen - is a surgical procedure whereby the top portion of the stomach is wrapped around the lower end of the esophagus. The weight and gravity effect on the stomach after eating pulls down the stomach and tightens this wrap thereby adding strength to the lower esophageal sphincter closure. Illustration

Laparoscopic surgery - a modern surgical technique. Small incisions are used instead of the larger incisions needed in traditional surgical procedures. A laparoscope, a telescopic rod lens system usually connected to a video camera and a light source, is used through a cannula to view the operative field.

Bronchitis - usually caused by viruses or bacteria and is characterized by coughing and phlegm production. With GERD, Acid reflux can back up into the mouth and leak into the airway causing bronchitis. If you have bronchitis, you should be seen by a physician to deremine the cause and discuss treatment.

Pneumonia - can be caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites, chemical or physical injury. Acid refluxing and aspirated into the lungs can cause pneumonia. If you suspect you have pneumonia you should see a doctor to determine the cause and get appropriate treatment.

Barium swallow - this is a test done in radiology. A thick liquid called barium is swallowed and x-rays of the esophagus are taken. The barium acts as a contrast so the x-rays show the esophagus lining show up better.

Regurgitation - the flow of stomach contents back into the esophagus and mouth

Esophageal cancer - cancer that forms in tissue lining the esophagus. Squamous cell carcinoma is cancer that begins in the flat cells lining the esophagus. Adenocarcinoma is cancer that begins in cells that make and release mucus and other fluids.

Upper GI x-rays - an x-ray exam of the pharynx (throat), esophagus, stomach and duodenum (upper part of the small intestine). Barium contrast is swallowed and x-rays are taken as the barium makes its way through the GI tract.

Gastric Emptying Study - radioactive chemicals measure the speed with which food empties from the stomach and enters the small intestines.

Stool - bowel movement.

Rex Heartburn Center
Phone: (919) 784-BURN (2876)
Fax: (919) 784-7532