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Now that doctors understand the connection between Helicobacter pylori infection, nonsteroidal drug usage, and peptic ulcers, ulcer surgery has become quite rare. Most ulcers can be managed and prevented from recurring by testing for and treating H. pylori infection, eliminating nonsteroidal use, and using powerful ulcer healing drugs, such as omeprazole or similar substances. However, you may require surgery if, despite several courses of treatment, you still have recurrences or if you have severe complications. Complications that might require surgery include:

  • Bleeding
  • Perforation—A medical emergency.
  • Obstruction—Scarring from peptic ulcers may obstruct flow through the stomach and duodenum. This is also a medical emergency.
Endoscopic Ulcer Treatment

This is used to stop bleeding. By passing a lighted scope into your intestinal tract, your doctor can find bleeding areas and treat them. Heat or electricity applied to the area of bleeding usually stops the blood flow. Epinephrine can also be applied through the endoscope to help stop bleeding. Clips can also be placed on bleeding ulcers to pinch off bleeding blood vessels.

Vagotomy

Vagotomy involves cutting branches of the vagus nerve, which is involved in the production of stomach acid. Cutting the vagus nerve can greatly reduce acid production. Cutting through the entire nerve, however, can interfere with the stomach’s ability to empty itself, so newer techniques cut only part of the nerve.

Antrectomy

Antrectomy is a surgical procedure whereby the lower part of the stomach (antrum) is removed. The antrum produces a chemical that prompts acid production. Without that chemical, acid production drops. This may provide some protection against recurrent peptic ulcers.

Pyloroplasty

Pyloroplasty makes the opening between the stomach and the duodenum larger, allowing stomach contents to flow more easily into the intestine. Pyloroplasty was at one time frequently utilized to reduce complications of vagotomy.

References:

American College of Gastroenterology website. Available at: http://www.acg.gi.org . Accessed March 3, 2006.

Cecil RL, Goldman L, Bennett JC. Cecil Textbook of Medicine . 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders Company; 2000.

Meurer LN, Bower DJ. Management of helicobacter pylori infection. Am Fam Physician [online]. Apr 2002;65(7). Available at: http://www.aafp.org/afp/2002/0401/p1327.html

National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse website. Available at: http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ . Accessed March 3, 2006.



Last reviewed October 2012 by Daus Mahnke, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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