The role of (duodeno)gastroesophagopharyngeal reflux in unexplained excessive throat phlegm

Dig Dis Sci. 2005 May;50(5):824-32. doi: 10.1007/s10620-005-2647-0.


Gastroesophageal reflux (GER), through the occurrence of gastroesophagopharyngeal reflux (GEPR), is an established cause of several otorhinolaryngological (ORL) manifestations. It has been suggested that unexplained excessive throat phlegm might also be a manifestation of GER, but formal evidence is lacking. The aim of the present study was to investigate the prevalence of GER as well as duodenogastroesophageal reflux (DGER) in consecutive patients with chronic complaints of excessive throat phlegm. Fifty-nine consecutive patients with chronic unexplained excessive throat phlegm, transparent in 33 patients (TTP) and yellow in 26 patients (YTP), underwent gastrointestinal endoscopy, 24-hr dual esophageal pH monitoring, and fiberoptic DGER monitoring. Proximal esophageal DGER monitoring was performed in seven YTP patients and analysis of bile acids in throat phlegm was performed on 16 samples. The effect of high-dose acid suppressive therapy was evaluated at 2-week intervals. Endoscopy and pH monitoring established a diagnosis of pathological GER in 75% of the patients. Pathological DGER was present in 56% of the patients and this was associated with YTP. Proximal DGER exposure was high in all investigated subjects and chemical analysis revealed a median bile acid concentration of 0.184 microM in nine YTP samples and no detectable bile acids in seven TTP samples. After a median of 4 weeks of acid suppressive therapy, most patients improved and 61% became asymptomatic. YTP patients were more likely to require maintenance acid suppressive therapy than TTP patients. Unexplained excessive throat phlegm is a sign suggestive of GER and GEPR, and unexplained yellow throat phlegm a sign suggestive of duodenogastroesophagopharyngeal reflux (DGEPR).

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anti-Ulcer Agents / therapeutic use
  • Chronic Disease
  • Color
  • Duodenogastric Reflux / complications*
  • Duodenogastric Reflux / pathology
  • Duodenogastric Reflux / physiopathology
  • Endoscopy, Gastrointestinal
  • Esophagus / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Gastric Acidity Determination
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / complications*
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / pathology
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Male
  • Manometry
  • Middle Aged
  • Mucus / physiology*
  • Pharynx / pathology*
  • Pharynx / physiopathology*
  • Prospective Studies


  • Anti-Ulcer Agents