Conference Coverage

Is Nissen fundoplication the best we can do?


As an esophagologist that does not perform fundoplication, LINX, or TIF, I find it difficult to debate the merits of one procedure over another based on my experience. In fact, I have always stated that it is difficult to assess a procedure or test that one has not used. That being said, maybe the fact that I have not performed these procedures makes me more objective and I can only use my experience with patients and the data to make the case that we need options beyond Nissen fundoplication.

Dr. John E. Pandolfino, Hans Popper Professor of Medicine at Northwestern University, Chicago

Dr. John E. Pandolfino

The recent VA Randomized trial in refractory GERD published by Spechler and colleagues once again highlighted the fact that there are some patients that require a mechanical solution to reflux disease.1 In this study, the authors carefully defined a patient population with refractory GERD and showed that Nissen fundoplication was superior to medical management in patients who did not respond to proton pump inhibitors. However, of the 27 patients who underwent fundoplication, one patient had major complications which required a repeat operation and prolonged hospital stay. These findings highlight the main problem with Nissen fundoplication. Dr. Watson elegantly argued in his assertion during our debate that Nissen and fundoplication are not the same. In this position, he was noting the side effects associated with Nissen fundoplication,2 and he focused his argument on the comparison between a partial wrap versus LINX and TIF to level the playing field. On that note, I agree with Dr. Watson that a well-done partial fundoplication is a great option for patients with a mechanical problem.
Nonetheless, I think we have the capacity to do better than Nissen fundoplication, and thus, a safer standardized reversible surgical option and a less invasive endoscopic approach have great appeal. Redo operations have an escalating risk of severe debilitating consequences and we should do everything possible to reduce that risk.3 The LINX and the TIF procedure have data to support their effectiveness, and the initial studies suggest a more favorable side effect profile.4,5 The ability to perform these procedures in patients with hiatal hernia and the fact that these approaches do not exclude the possibility of fundoplication in the future make them an attractive alternative.

In the end, more rigorous comparative studies should be performed to truly determine which approach is better. Although we have good surgical and medical options, we all recognize that they are not perfect and we should not settle on the current state of GERD management.

John E. Pandolfino, MD, MSCI, is the Hans Popper Professor of Medicine and Division Chief, Gastroenterology and Hepatology at Northwestern University, Chicago. He disclosed relationships with Ethicon/Johnson & Johnson, Endogastric Solutions, and Medtronic. These remarks were made during one of the AGA Postgraduate Course sessions held at DDW 2021.


1. Spechler SJ et al. N Engl J Med. 2019 Oct 17;381[16]:1513-23.

2. Yadlapati R et al. Am J Gastroenterol. 2018 Aug;113[8]:1137-47.

3. Singhal S et al. J Gastrointest Surg. 2018 Feb;22[2]:177-86.

4. Ganz RA et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2016 May;14(5):671-7.

5. Testoni PA et al. Endosc Int Open. 2019 May;7(5):E647-E654.

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