Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

What is GERD?

Your stomach uses gastric acids to digest the foods that you eat. A small muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter at the bottom of your esophagus (the tube that leads from your mouth to your stomach) opens and shuts your esophagus. It opens to let food in, then closes to keep stomach acid from getting into your esophagus.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) occurs when your lower esophageal sphincter relaxes for too long and lets acid flow up into your esophagus, which causes heartburn and discomfort.

People with gastroesophageal reflux disease often experience heartburn multiple times per week. Other common symptoms include:

  • A sour taste in your mouth
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • A feeling like a lump in your throat

Who is at risk?

GERD is typically seen in adults who:

  • Are obese
  • Have a hiatal hernia
  • Are pregnant
  • Smoke tobacco
  • Drink alcohol or lots of caffeine

Diagnosis and testing

The most common way of diagnosing GERD is through an upper endoscopy, which uses a thin, flexible tube with a camera (endoscope) to view your esophagus and stomach and take a biopsy if needed. The endoscopy can detect inflammation of the esophagus (esophagitis) or other complications. Other diagnostic methods can include:

  • pH probe test is a monitor is placed in your esophagus to identify when, and how much, stomach acid regurgitates there
  • Barium esophageal test allows your doctor to see a silhouette of your esophagus and stomach

GERD treatments

For minor cases, GERD treatment can be as simple as making dietary adjustments, but more severe situations may require medication and/or endoscopic or surgical fundoplication.


Thoracic Surgery

The thoracic surgeons at Main Line Health offer comprehensive diagnosis and treatment for every type of thoracic condition, including lung and esophageal cancer.



Main Line Health gastroenterology works to resolve digestive issues and GI conditions. Find the right solution for your digestive conditions at one of our Philadelphia locations.

Lung and Thoracic

Main Line Health experts use the latest technology to diagnose and treat all types of conditions affecting the chest, lungs and esophagus.

Surgical Care

General surgeons are doctors who are board certified as specialists in many different types of surgery. At Main Line Health, our general surgeons are an important part of your care team.