Symptoms of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease in elderly people

Age Ageing. 1991 Sep;20(5):365-70. doi: 10.1093/ageing/20.5.365.


The frequency and the possible age-related characteristics of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) were investigated in 195 consecutive elderly subjects (mean age 74 years), referred to endoscopy for abdominal symptoms or sideropenic anaemia. In the 105 of these patients in whom there was any suspicion of GORD, 24-hour pH monitoring was carried out. All the patients were interviewed before the examinations. Erosive or complicated (grade 2-4) oesophagitis was found in 18% of patients. The main symptoms in these patients were dysphagia, respiratory symptoms and vomiting. Chronic cough, hoarseness or wheezing were present in 57% of patients with oesophagitis compared with 33% of those without oesophagitis (p less than 0.001). The occurrence of heartburn and regurgitation did not differ significantly between patients with or without oesophagitis, although the mean symptom scores were higher in those with oesophagitis. Dyspepsia and chest pain were not typical symptoms in oesophagitis. Of patients with oesophagitis 29% had no typical symptoms of GORD; only 24% of patients with regurgitation had oesophagitis. In 24-hour pH monitoring, a significant increase in the occurrence of symptoms was not seen until total reflux time pH less than 4 exceeded 10%. The occurrence of heartburn did not correlate with the extent of reflux in the pH study. In conclusion, typical symptoms of GORD in the aged were regurgitation, dysphagia, respiratory symptoms and vomiting rather than heartburn.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Esophagitis / epidemiology
  • Esophagitis / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / physiopathology*
  • Gastroscopy
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Monitoring, Physiologic