Background: The role of surgery in the management of extra-oesophageal symptoms of gastro-oesophageal reflux (EOR) is unclear. In this retrospective study we studied patients who had surgical fundoplication for EOR symptoms from 1995 to 2005. We analysed outcome with respect to symptomatic improvement and patient satisfaction.
Methods: From our database of 240 patients who had surgical fundoplication for gastro-oesophageal reflux disease, 51 patients who had predominantly EOR symptoms were identified. All the patients had objective evidence of reflux and had been offered surgery because of failure of medical therapy and/or of development of complications. Patients were asked to score their symptoms before and after surgery using the Reflux Symptom Index, and to record their use of medicine before and after operation, their experience with surgery and their overall quality of life using a written questionnaire.
Results: Forty of the 51 patients were available for analysis. Common symptoms were cough and breathlessness (32/40), throat clearing/postnasal drip (31/40), sensation of lump in the throat (29/40), and voice problems (22/40). Of these forty patients, 34 (85%) had associated classical symptoms as well. Mean follow up at the time of questionnaire was 53.3 (6-120) months. The mean Reflux Symptom Index score improved from 22.80 (SD 10.80) to 11.83 (SD 9.91) (p < 0.0001, paired t-test). Six of the 39 responders (15.3%) said they would not have had the operation knowing what they know now and that problems related to the operation outweighed any benefits. These problems included gas bloating, inability to retch and dysphagia lasting up to one year after surgery. Twenty-five percent of the 40 patients described their overall quality of life as excellent, 32.5% as good, 32.5% as satisfactory and 10% as bad.
Conclusion: Surgery can be an effective treatment in the majority of patients with extra-oesophageal symptoms of reflux.