Background: Cross-sectional studies indicate that gastro-oesophageal reflux disease symptoms have a prevalence of 10-20% in Western countries and are associated with obesity, smoking, oesophagitis, chest pain and respiratory disease.
Aim: To determine the natural history of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease presenting in primary care in the UK.
Methods: Patients with a first diagnosis of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease during 1996 were identified in the UK General Practice Research Database and compared with age- and sex-matched controls. We investigated the incidence of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease, potential risk factors and comorbidities, and relative risk for subsequent oesophageal complications and mortality.
Results: The incidence of a gastro-oesophageal reflux disease diagnosis was 4.5 per 1000 person-years (95% confidence interval: 4.4-4.7). Prior use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, smoking, excess body weight and gastrointestinal and cardiac conditions were associated with an increased risk of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease diagnosis. Subjects with gastro-oesophageal reflux disease had an increased risk of respiratory problems, chest pain and angina in the year after diagnosis, and had a relative risk of 11.5 (95% confidence interval: 5.9-22.3) of being diagnosed with an oesophageal complication. There was an increase in mortality in the gastro-oesophageal reflux disease cohort only in the year following the diagnosis.
Conclusions: Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease is a disease associated with a range of potentially serious oesophageal complications and extra-oesophageal diseases.