Background: If a patient develops foregut symptoms after a fundoplication, it is assumed that the operation has failed, and acid-reducing medications are often prescribed. Esophageal function tests (manometry and pH monitoring) are seldom performed early in the management of these patients.
Hypothesis: In patients who are symptomatic after fundoplication for gastroesophageal reflux disease, a symptom-based diagnosis is not accurate, and esophageal function tests should be performed routinely before starting acid-reducing medications.
Design: Prospective study.
Setting: University hospital.
Patients and methods: One hundred twenty-four patients who developed foregut symptoms after laparoscopic fundoplication (average, 17 months postoperatively) underwent esophageal manometry and pH monitoring. Sixty-two patients (50%) were taking acid-reducing medications.
Main outcome measures: Postoperative symptoms, use of antireflux medications, grade of esophagitis, esophageal motility, and DeMeester scores.
Results: Seventy-six (61%) of the 124 patients had normal esophageal acid exposure, while the acid exposure was abnormal in 48 patients (39%). Only 20 (32%) of the 62 patients who were taking acid-reducing medications had reflux postoperatively. Regurgitation was the only symptom that predicted abnormal reflux.
Conclusions: These results show that (1) symptoms were due to reflux in 39% of patients only; (2) with the exception of regurgitation, symptoms were an unreliable index of the presence of reflux; and (3) 68% of patients who were taking acid-reducing medications postoperatively had a normal reflux status. Esophageal function tests should be performed early in the evaluation of patients after fundoplication to avoid improper and costly medical therapy.