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, 31 (2), 137-53

Aging and the Gastrointestinal Tract

  • PMID: 10363200

Aging and the Gastrointestinal Tract

A Pilotto. Ital J Gastroenterol Hepatol.


The aim of the present review is to summarize the most recent progress in gastroenterological topics, particularly of the upper gastrointestinal tract, which are of special interest in the elderly. The changes in oesophageal function, particularly disorders of motility, may explain, only in part, the unique clinical characteristics of oesophageal pathologies in the elderly. Dysphagia and gastro-oesophageal reflux disease present diagnostic, clinical and therapeutic characteristics that need to be studied with attention to avoid eventual disability, an impairment of nutritional status and a reduction in the quality of life. Aging, per se, does not significantly modify gastric aggressive factors, however, a selective and specific reduction in some gastric defensive mechanisms seems to occur with aging. The prevention of gastric mucosal injury, particularly that due to drugs, requires a better understanding of these age-related changes. Helicobacter pylori infection in the elderly presents peculiar epidemiological aspects particularly for subjects living in nursing homes. An understanding of Helicobacter pylori-related histological modifications of the gastric mucosa, particularly intestinal metaplasia, gastric atrophy and gastric cancer, the incidence of which seems to be both age- and Helicobacter pylori-related, is greatly needed. Moreover, some diagnostic and therapeutic aspects of Helicobacter pylori infection, i.e., the role of serology and the efficacy, side effects and compliance of drug therapies, are specific for the elderly and require a unique clinical approach. Bleeding is dramatically more frequent in this population. The identification of risk factors, i.e., drugs, pathophysiological mechanisms, i.e., the possible relationship between non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and Helicobacter pylori infection, along with the clinical presentation in the elderly patient, must be the foundation of preventive medical care in geriatric gastroenterology.

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