Objectives: Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a common condition that affects patients' health-related quality of life (HRQoL). The HRQoL of Barrett's esophagus (BE) has been less well studied. Furthermore, it is unknown to what extent BE patients suffer from psychological distress as a result of carrying a diagnosis of a premalignant condition. We sought to compare BE and GERD (stratified by erosive reflux disease (ERD) and non-erosive reflux disease (NERD)) with regard to HRQoL and psychological impact.
Methods: In this single-center study of subjects presenting for elective upper endoscopy, consecutive patients with BE and GERD were enrolled. Participants completed questionnaires assessing generic HRQoL (medical outcomes study short form-36 (SF-36)), disease-specific HRQoL (gastrointestinal quality of life index (GIQLI)), a measure of psychological distress (the Revised Hopkins Symptom Checklist: SCL-90R), and a patient-centered assessment of the impact of disease severity (the GERD health-related quality of life measure (GERD HRQL)).
Results: Patients with BE had the lowest symptom severity compared with those suffering from NERD or ERD (GERD HRQL: 13.7 vs. 18 and 15.9, respectively, P<0.01). Those with BE also had better disease-specific quality of life compared with NERD or ERD patients (GIQLI: 137.2 vs. 124.3 and 131.0, respectively, P<0.001). After adjusting for potential confounding variables including symptom severity and gender, BE patients continued to demonstrate better disease-specific HRQoL, scoring 12.2 points higher on the GIQLI than NERD patients (95% confidence interval (CI) 5.1-19.3) and 16.3 points higher than ERD patients (95% CI 5.4-27.3), as well as better generic HRQoL, scoring 4.8 points higher on the SF-36 physical component summary than NERD patients (95% CI 0.8-8.8) and 7.1 points higher than ERD patients (95% CI 1.2-13.1). There were no significant differences between groups in psychological distress, as demonstrated by the SCL-90R global severity index, although BE patients scored lower on the somatization domain compared with NERD and ERD patients. When stratified by gender, females with NERD and BE had worse disease-specific HRQoL than males.
Conclusions: Patients with BE have better generic and disease-specific HRQoL when compared with patients suffering from NERD and ERD. This difference is only partially attributable to lower symptom severity amongs BE patients. Psychological distress did not differ significantly amongs groups. Female gender was associated with worsened HRQoL regardless of GERD disease manifestation. Though more precise instruments may aid in detecting any HRQoL decrements in BE patients because of perceived cancer risk or fear of developing or dying from cancer, we were unable to demonstrate an additional decrement in HRQoL because of cancer risk in subjects with BE.