What is an open reflux operation?

A reflux operation involves the surgical tightening of the junction between the oesophagus (food pipe) and the stomach through a cut in the abdomen.


This procedure will/may require an anaesthetic.

What are the risks of this specific procedure?

There are risks and complications with this procedure. They include but are not limited to the following:

General risks:

  • Infection can occur, requiring antibiotics and further treatment.
  • Bleeding could occur and may require a return to the operating room. Bleeding is more common if you have been taking blood thinning drugs such as Warfarin, Asprin, Clopidogrel (Plavix or Iscover) or Dipyridamole (Persantin or Asasantin).
  • Small areas of the lung can collapse, increasing the risk of chest infection. This may need antibiotics and physiotherapy.
  • Increased risk in obese people of wound infection, chest infection, heart and lung complications, and thrombosis.
  • Heart attack or stroke could occur due to the strain on the heart.
  • Blood clot in the leg (DVT) causing pain and swelling. In rare cases, part of the clot may break off and go to the lungs.
  • Death as a result of this procedure is possible.

Specific risks:

  • Deep bleeding inside the abdomen. This may need fluid replacement or further surgery.
  • Damage to the oesophagus that may lead to infection in the chest. This may need further surgery.
  • Damage to the spleen, in which case it will have to be removed.
  • Especially in a male, there may be difficulty passing urine and a tube may need to be inserted into the bladder to drain the urine until the bladder recovers.
  • Infections such as pus collections in the abdomen can occur. This may need surgical drainage and/or antibiotics.
  • The bowel movement may be paralyzed of blocked after surgery and this may cause building up of fluid in the bowel with bloating of the abdomen and vomiting. Further treatment may be necessary for this.
  • Difficulty in swallowing, belching and vomiting after the operation. This is irreversible.
  • Damage to the vagus nerve, which can delay stomach emptying. This may require further surgery.
  • A weakness in the wound with complete or incomplete, bursting of the wound in the short term, or a hernia in the long term.
  • Sometimes adhesions (bands of scar tissue) develop in the abdomen and the bowel may block – this is a short and long term complication and may need further surgery.
  • In some people, healing of the wound may become thickened and red and may be painful.
  • Increased risk in smokers of wound and chest infections, heart and lung complications and thrombosis.