Background: The causal association between gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and difficult-to-control asthma is unclear.
Aim: To determine the prevalence of GERD and response to proton pump inhibitor therapy in patients with difficult-to-control asthma.
Methods: Consecutive patients with difficult-to-control asthma as defined by persistent and recurrent symptoms despite on optimal asthmatic medications were recruited for the study. GERD was diagnosed by symptoms, gastroscopy and 24-h oesophageal pH monitoring. All patients were prescribed a course of lansoprazole 30 mg daily for 8 weeks. Improvement to treatment was assessed by a change in pulmonary symptom score and also by patient's subjective assessment of improvement.
Results: Seventeen of 30 (56.7%) patients with difficult-to-control asthma were diagnosed with GERD. Pulmonary symptom score improved significantly only in patients with GERD (35.0 to 21.0; P = 0.002). Twelve of 16 (75%) patients with GERD reported an improvement in asthma symptoms; 1 of 11 (9.1%) without GERD reported mild symptom improvement. There was no significant change in peak expiratory flow rate and forced expiratory volume.
Conclusions: More than half of patients with difficult-to-control asthma were diagnosed with GERD. In these patients the severity of asthma improved significantly with potent acid suppression therapy. This underlines the critical role of acid reflux in this subset of patients with difficult-to-control asthma.