Objectives: Gastroesophageal reflux (GER) and its esophageal (esophagitis, Barrett's esophagus) and extraesophageal (asthma, laryngeal disease) disease manifestations (GERD) are increasing common problems in children and adults. There are virtually no published longitudinal outcome studies that describe the natural history of childhood-onset GER throughout a person's lifetime. The aim of this study was to compare the frequency of recalled childhood reflux symptoms in adult patients currently with and without GER symptoms.
Methods: Four hundred adult patients were classified as refluxers (225 patients; 57%), nonrefluxers (154 patients; 38%), and those who claimed to not know if they had reflux (21 patients; 5%; excluded from analysis). Subjects were given a questionnaire asking them to recall childhood symptoms attributed to GER. Of the 225 refluxers, 141 (63%) recalled at least one childhood symptom, compared with 54 of the 154 nonrefluxers (35%) ( < 0.001).
Conclusions: Adult refluxers were more likely to recall having developed GER symptoms at an earlier age, beginning at infancy and developing statistically significant GER compared with nonrefluxers after age 11. Adults suffering from GER were far more likely than nonrefluxers to recall having experienced GER symptoms during childhood. Well-designed, population-based epidemiologic studies are needed to more accurately assess the extent of GER in the overall population and the extent of its impact on health care in the United States.