Journal of Gastrointestinal Surgery

, Volume 11, Issue 5, pp 642-647

First online:

Recurrent Heartburn after Laparoscopic Fundoplication is Not Always Recurrent Reflux

  • Sarah K. ThompsonAffiliated withDepartment of Surgery, University of Adelaide Email author 
  • , Glyn G. JamiesonAffiliated withDepartment of Surgery, University of Adelaide
  • , Jennifer C. MyersAffiliated withDepartment of Surgery, University of Adelaide
  • , Kin-Fah ChinAffiliated withDepartment of Surgery, University of Adelaide
  • , David I. WatsonAffiliated withDepartment of Surgery, Flinders University
  • , Peter G. DevittAffiliated withDepartment of Surgery, University of Adelaide

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A small cohort of patients present after antireflux surgery complaining of recurrent heartburn. Many of these patients have been empirically recommenced on proton pump inhibitors.


The aim of this study was to determine whether patients with symptoms that suggest recurrent reflux had objective evidence of reflux, and to determine predictors of recurrent reflux.


We identified all patients from an existing database who had undergone pH monitoring for “recurrent heartburn” after fundoplication. These patients were then cross-referenced to another database, which recorded the outcomes for patients who had undergone a laparoscopic fundoplication. Patients complaining of dysphagia or other problems without heartburn were excluded from analysis.


Seventy-six patients were identified who met the inclusion criteria. Fifty-six (74%) of these had a normal 24-h pH study. Thirty-five patients (63%) with a normal pH study were on medication for heartburn at the time of referral. Three factors were found to be associated with an abnormal 24-h pH study: a partial fundoplication (P = 0.039), onset of symptoms 6 months or more after surgery (P < 0.001), and a good symptom response when antireflux medication was recommenced (P = 0.015).


Not all patients complaining of recurrent heartburn after fundoplication have evidence of abnormal reflux. Objective evidence of abnormal esophageal acid exposure should be confirmed before recommencing antireflux medication.


Laparoscopic fundoplication Recurrent heartburn Recurrent reflux 24-h pH study