Objective: To determine the effect of treating Helicobacter pylori infection on the recurrence of gastric and duodenal ulcer disease.
Design: Follow-up of up to 2 years in patients with healed ulcers who had participated in randomized, controlled trials.
Setting: A Veterans Affairs hospital.
Participants: A total of 109 patients infected with H. pylori who had a recently healed duodenal (83 patients) or gastric ulcer (26 patients) as confirmed by endoscopy.
Intervention: Patients received ranitidine, 300 mg, or ranitidine plus triple therapy. Triple therapy consisted of tetracycline, 2 g; metronidazole, 750 mg; and bismuth subsalicylate, 5 or 8 tablets (151 mg bismuth per tablet) and was administered for the first 2 weeks of treatment; ranitidine therapy was continued until the ulcer had healed or 16 weeks had elapsed. After ulcer healing, no maintenance antiulcer therapy was given.
Measurements: Endoscopy to assess ulcer recurrence was done at 3-month intervals or when a patient developed symptoms, for a maximum of 2 years.
Results: The probability of recurrence for patients who received triple therapy plus ranitidine was significantly lower than that for patients who received ranitidine alone: for patients with duodenal ulcer, 12% (95% CI, 1% to 24%) compared with 95% (CI, 84% to 100%); for patients with gastric ulcer, 13% (CI, 4% to 31%) compared with 74% (44% to 100%). Fifty percent of patients who received ranitidine alone for healing of duodenal or gastric ulcer had a relapse within 12 weeks of healing. Ulcer recurrence in the triple therapy group was related to the failure to eradicate H. pylori and to the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
Conclusions: Eradication of H. pylori infection markedly changes the natural history of peptic ulcer in patients with duodenal or gastric ulcer. Most peptic ulcers associated with H. pylori infection are curable.