Gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), for which morbid obesity is an important risk factor, occurs when stomach acid leaks from the top of the stomach into the esophagus causing symptoms like heartburn.
Why Severe Obesity is a Risk Factor For Gastroesophageal Reflux
Usually, a double valve mechanism (the lower esophageal sphincter and the hiatus) stops stomach acids from escaping back into the esophagus. However, in severely obese patients this esophageal valve system can fail due to excessive pressure placed upon it by extra abdominal weight. Long term gastroesophageal reflux can lead to Barrett’s esophagus (prevalent in 10-15 percent of morbidly obese patients) which is a pre-cancerous condition in the lining membrane of the esophagus, a precursor of esophageal cancer.
Bariatric Surgery Reduces Gastroesophageal Reflux
Successful gastric surgery to reduce severe obesity significantly reduces the incidence of gastroesophageal reflux.