Cough in adult cystic fibrosis: diagnosis and response to fundoplication

Cough. 2009 Jan 18:5:1. doi: 10.1186/1745-9974-5-1.


Background: Gastroesophageal reflux is one of the most common causes of chronic cough in the general population. Reflux occurs frequently in patients with cystic fibrosis (CF). We undertook laparoscopic Nissen fundoplication in adult CF patients with a clinical diagnosis of reflux cough who had failed conventional medical therapies.

Objective: We determined the response to the surgical route in the treatment of intractable reflux cough in CF.

Method: Patients with refractory cough were assessed by 24 h pH monitoring and oesophageal manometry. Pre-and post-operation cough, lung function and exacerbation frequency were compared. Cough was assessed by the Leicester Cough Questionnaire (LCQ), lung function by spirometry and exacerbation frequency was defined by comparing the postoperative epoch with a similar preoperatively.

Results: Significant abnormalities of oesophageal function were seen in all patients studied. 6 patients (2 females), with the mean age of 34.5 years consented to surgery. Their mean number of reflux episodes was 144.4, mean DeMeester score was 39.2, and mean lower oesophageal sphincter pressure 12.4 mmHg. There was a small change in the FEV1 from 1.03 L to 1.17 (P = 0.04), and FVC improved from 2.62 to 2.87 (P = 0.05). Fundoplication lead to a marked fall in cough with the total LCQ score increasing from 11.9 to 18.3 (P = 0.01). Exacerbation events were reduced by 50% post operatively.

Conclusion: Whilst there is an obvious attention to respiratory causes of cough in CF, reflux is also a common cause. Fundoplication is highly effective in the control of reflux cough in CF. Significant reduction in exacerbation frequency may indicate that reflux with possible aspiration is a major unrecognised contributor to airway disease.