Disturbances of the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system in patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) estimated by short-term heart rate variability recordings

J Physiol Pharmacol. 2004 Jul;55 Suppl 2:77-90.


Gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD) is the result of the acid contents regurgitation back from the stomach into the esophagus. According to the endoscopic findings, GERD can be divided into two main forms: non-erosive (NERD) and erosive reflux esophagitis. The pathogenesis of GERD is associated with the impaired function of the antireflux barrier. Disturbances of the autonomic nervous system (ANS), especially parasympathetic part of the ANS, may be also involved in the pathogenesis of this disease. The aim of our study was to establish the parasympathetic activity in patients with reflux esophagitis and in patients with symptomatic endoscopically negative reflux. Working hypothesis was the question, whether the possible parasympathetic activity disturbances, which are observed in all GERD patients, may be regarded as the primary or secondary to the esophagitis. All the participants (20 pts. with NERD, 20 pts. with reflux esophagitis and 20 healthy controls) underwent esophageal manometry, 24-hour ambulatory pH-monitoring, resting heart rate variability (HRV) recording and the deep breathing (DB) test with the continuous HRV recording. The results of the spectral analysis both of the short-term, resting HRV recordings and DB-evoked revealed the disturbances of the main power spectra components - LF and HF in both groups of patients in comparison with the control group. In our opinion, the observed HRV spectra changes in both groups of patients support the hypothesis that not only is the parasympathetic activity impairment associated with the pathogenesis of GERD but it is also the primary factor contributing to the pathophysiological mechanism of reflux.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiology
  • Female
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / etiology
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / physiopathology*
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Manometry / methods
  • Middle Aged
  • Parasympathetic Nervous System / physiology*
  • Time Factors