Background: Empirical therapy or early endoscopy have been recommended as acceptable management options for GERD. The objective of this study was to determine whether diagnosis and empirical treatment based on reflux symptoms alone are appropriate as initial management for patients with gastroesophageal reflux.
Method: Consecutive patients presenting with weekly reflux symptoms were evaluated with a structured questionnaire followed by endoscopy. Patients with dyspepsia as the predominant symptom, "alarm" symptoms (weight loss, dysphagia, or bleeding), history of peptic ulcer or gastric surgery, or recent nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs intake were excluded.
Results: Four hundred sixty patients were studied: 82 (18%) were found to have peptic ulcer disease and 78 (95%) were infected with Helicobacter pylori. Concomitant erosive esophagitis was found in 26 (32%) of these patients with peptic ulcer disease. In the remaining 378 patients, 218 (58%) had erosive esophagitis and 1 had esophageal cancer. Among the 159 patients with no endoscopic lesion, 148 (93%) had relief of symptoms when treated with a proton pump inhibitor. Multivariate analysis showed that male gender (OR: 1.8, p = 0.03), age greater than 60 years (OR: 2.2, p = 0.01) and H pylori infection (OR: 3.6, p = 0.008) were significantly associated with a diagnosis of peptic ulcer disease. Coexisting dyspeptic symptom was not a predictor (p = 0.13) for peptic ulcer disease.
Conclusions: In populations with a high prevalence of H pylori infection, a significant proportion of patients with GERD have concomitant peptic ulcer disease. Empirical treatment based on "typical" GERD symptoms alone may not be appropriate.