Background: The management of dyspepsia is controversial.
Methods: An international Working Party was convened in 1998 to review management strategies for dyspepsia and functional dyspepsia, based on a review of the literature and best clinical practice.
Results: Dyspepsia, defined as pain or discomfort centred in the upper abdomen, can be managed with reassurance and over-the-counter therapy if its duration is less than 4 weeks on initial presentation. For patients with chronic symptoms, clinical evaluation depends on alarm features including patient age. The age cut off selected should depend on the age specific incidence when gastric cancer begins to increase, but in Western nations 50 years is generally an acceptable age threshold. In younger patients without alarm features, Helicobacter pylori test and treatment is the approach recommended because of its value in eliminating the peptic ulcer disease diathesis. If, after eradication of H. pylori, symptoms either are not relieved or rapidly recur, then an empirical trial of therapy is recommended. Similarly, in H. pylori-negative patients without alarm features, an empirical trial (with antisecretory or prokinetic therapy depending on the predominant symptom) for up to 8 weeks is recommended. If drugs fail, endoscopy should be considered because of its reassurance value although the yield will be low. In older patients or those with alarm features, prompt endoscopy is recommended. If endoscopy is non-diagnostic, gastric biopsies are recommended to document H. pylori status unless already known. While treatment of H. pylori is unlikely to relieve the symptoms of functional dyspepsia, the long-term benefits probably outweigh the risks and treatment can be considered on a case-by-case basis. In H. pylori-negative patients with documented functional dyspepsia, antisecretory or prokinetic therapy, depending on the predominant symptom, is reasonable, assuming reassurance and explanation are insufficient, unless patients have already failed this approach. Other treatment options include antidepressants, antispasmodics, visceral analgesics such as serotonin type 3 receptor antagonists, and behavioural or psychotherapy although these are all of uncertain efficacy. Long-term drug treatment in functional dyspepsia should be avoided; intermittent short courses of treatment as needed is preferred.
Conclusion: The management of dyspepsia recommended is based on current best evidence but must be tailored to local factors such as practice setting, the background prevalence of H. pylori and structural disease, and costs.