Background: Oesophagitis arises when reflux of acid from the stomach into the oesophagus causes mucosal inflammation. It is a common problem and a systematic review on the optimum treatment would be useful.
Objectives: To assess the effectiveness of proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), H2 receptor antagonists (H2RAs), prokinetic therapy, sucralfate and placebo in healing oesophagitis or curing reflux symptoms or both. To compare adverse effects with the different treatments.
Search strategy: We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials and the National Research Register until December 2004 and reference lists of articles. We also contacted manufacturers and researchers in the field.
Selection criteria: Randomised controlled trials assessing the healing of oesophagitis or reflux symptoms or both. Treatment involving PPIs, H2RAs, prokinetics, sucralfate and combinations either in comparison to another treatment regimen or to placebo for 2 and 12 weeks.
Data collection and analysis: Two reviews independently assessed trial quality and extracted data.
Main results: We included 134 trials involving 35,978 oesophagitis participants. Five RCTs evaluated standard dose of PPI versus placebo in 965 participants. There was a statistically significant benefit of taking standard dose PPI therapy compared to placebo in healing of oesophagitis (RR = 0.22; 95% CI 0.15 to 0.31). Ten RCTs reported on the outcome for H2RA versus placebo evaluating 1241 participants. There was statistically significant benefit of taking H2RA compared to placebo in healing of oesophagitis (RR 0.74,95% CI = 0.66 to 0.84). Three RCTs evaluated prokinetic therapy versus placebo in 198 participants. There was no statistically significant benefit of taking prokinetic therapy compared to placebo in healing of oesophagitis (RR 0.71, 95% CI 0.46 to 1.10). Twenty six RCTs reported the outcome for PPI versus H2RA or H2RA plus prokinetics, evaluating 4032 participants. There was statistically significant benefit of taking PPI therapy compared to H2RA or H2RA plus prokinetics in healing of oesophagitis (RR 0.51, 95% CI 0.44 to 0.59).
Authors' conclusions: PPI therapy is the most effective therapy in oesophagitis but H2RA therapy is also superior to placebo. There is a paucity of evidence on prokinetic therapy but no evidence that it is superior to placebo.