Background: Symptoms of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GERD) have previously been shown to be of importance in patients with asthma. Limited data, however, exist on the prevalence of GERD in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and information about the occurrence of the total burden of gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms in these patients is lacking.
Methods: A total of 113 patients with COPD completed four self-administered questionnaires: the Gastrointestinal Symptom-Rating Scale (GSRS), ROME II modular questionnaires (criteria for irritable bowel syndrome), the Psychological General Well-Being index (PGWB), and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression scale. Eighty-two patients with chronic renal failure (CRF) and 2000 healthy individuals from the general Swedish population served as controls.
Results: The total GSRS score in patients with COPD was 2.12 (1.92-2.28) which was significantly higher than the score from the general population of 1.96 (1.81-2.12). No significant difference between COPD and CRF patients was, however, observed, in any of the GSRS dimensions. Patients in the COPD group had lower total PGWB scores compared both with CRF patients 90 (78-104) vs. 98 (83-113) (P<0.05) and with the general population 103 (102-104) (P<0.001). A negative correlation between the GSRS and PGWB scores (r=-0.49; P<0.001) was observed in patients with COPD. Sixteen (14%) of the patients with COPD fulfilled the Rome II criteria for irritable bowel syndrome.
Conclusion: The prevalence of GI symptoms is higher in patients with COPD than in healthy individuals, but not higher than in CRF patients. The GI symptoms are associated with impairments in psychological well-being, and they require diagnostic workups to explore different treatment options in these patients.