Effects of asymptomatic proximal and distal gastroesophageal reflux on asthma severity

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2009 Nov 1;180(9):809-16. doi: 10.1164/rccm.200904-0625OC. Epub 2009 Aug 6.


Rationale: Silent gastroesophageal reflux (GER) is common in patients with asthma, but it is unclear whether GER is associated with worse asthma symptoms or reduced lung function.

Objectives: To determine in patients with poorly controlled asthma, whether proximal or distal esophageal reflux is associated with asthma severity, symptoms, physiology, or functional status.

Methods: Baseline asthma characteristics were measured in patients with asthma enrolled in a multicenter trial assessing the effectiveness of esomeprazole on asthma control. All participants underwent 24-hour esophageal pH probe monitoring. Lung function, methacholine responsiveness, asthma symptoms, and quality-of-life scores were compared in subjects with and without GER.

Measurements and main results: Of 304 participants with probe recordings, 53% had reflux. Of 242 participants with recordings of proximal pH, 38% had proximal reflux. There was no difference in need for short-acting bronchodilators, nocturnal awakenings, dose of inhaled corticosteroid, use of long-acting beta-agonists, lung function, or methacholine reactivity between individuals with and without proximal or distal GER. Participants with GER reported more use of oral corticosteroids and had worse asthma quality of life and subjects with proximal GER had significantly worse asthma quality of life and health-related quality of life compared with participants without GER.

Conclusions: Asymptomatic GER is not associated with distinguishing asthma symptoms or lower lung function in individuals with suboptimal asthma control who are using inhaled corticosteroids. Patients with proximal reflux report significantly worse asthma and health-related quality of life despite lack of physiologic impairment or increase in asthma symptoms. Clinical trial registered with www.clinicaltrials.gov (NCT00069823).

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / therapeutic use
  • Adult
  • Anti-Ulcer Agents / therapeutic use
  • Asthma / complications*
  • Asthma / drug therapy
  • Asthma / physiopathology
  • Esomeprazole / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / complications*
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / drug therapy
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Lung / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Monitoring, Physiologic / methods
  • Quality of Life
  • Severity of Illness Index


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Anti-Ulcer Agents
  • Esomeprazole

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00069823