Belching: dyspepsia or gastroesophageal reflux disease?

Am J Gastroenterol. 2003 Oct;98(10):2139-45. doi: 10.1111/j.1572-0241.2003.07627.x.


Objectives: Eructation (belching) is a common symptom seen in clinical practice. Because either belching or heartburn may result from transient lower esophageal sphincter relaxations, it has been proposed that belching may be a manifestation of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). In this retrospective study we evaluated the prevalence of belching in dyspepsia and GERD and the relation of belching to acid reflux events documented by pH monitoring.

Methods: We examined the prevalence, frequency, and severity of belching and other GERD symptoms by use of standardized questionnaires in 180 GERD patients (group A) and 78 dyspeptic controls (group B) referred for evaluation at our institution. GERD was defined as either endoscopic esophagitis (or Barrett's esophagus) or positive DeMeester score (>14.2) on pH monitoring or both. Dyspeptic patients had normal endoscopy and pH studies. We also analyzed the relationship of belching to acid reflux events during the 24-h period of pH studies.

Results: Of 180 GERD patients, 132 (70%) reported belching during pH monitoring, versus 63 of 78 dyspeptic patients (80%) (p = ns). Similarly, 163 of 180 GERD patients (90%) reported heartburn versus 64 of 78 of dyspeptic patients (82%) (p = ns). Review of symptom questionnaires revealed no significant difference in belching severity between groups. However, heartburn and acid regurgitation were significantly more severe among GERD patients. There was a significantly higher correlation of both heartburn and belching with acid events in patients with GERD compared with patients with dyspepsia. In addition, although both belching and heartburn were significantly improved in patients with GERD, belching scores remained unchanged after proton pump inhibitor (PPI) therapy in patients with dyspepsia.

Conclusions: Belching is as common and as severe in patients with dyspepsia as it is in patients with GERD. Belching and heartburn in GERD patients are more likely correlated with episodes of pathological acid reflux. Because belching cannot be clinically used as a discriminatory symptom, ambulatory pH monitoring should be considered to elucidate the relationship of belching to acid reflux in patients with dyspepsia or GERD.

MeSH terms

  • Case-Control Studies
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Dyspepsia / complications
  • Dyspepsia / diagnosis*
  • Dyspepsia / therapy
  • Eructation / diagnosis
  • Eructation / etiology*
  • Esophagoscopy / methods
  • Female
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / complications
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / diagnosis*
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / therapy
  • Gastroscopy / methods
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Male
  • Manometry
  • Middle Aged
  • Monitoring, Ambulatory
  • Prevalence
  • Probability
  • Prognosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Severity of Illness Index