Background: Chronic cough affects more than 70 percent of patients with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis and causes significant morbidity. Gastroesophageal reflux is the cause of some cases of chronic cough; and also has a postulated role in the aetiology of Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis. A high prevalence of acid; and more recently non-acid, reflux has been observed in Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis cohorts. Therefore, gastroesophageal reflux may be implicated in the pathogenesis of cough in Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis.
Methods: Eighteen subjects with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis underwent 24-hour oesophageal impedance and cough count monitoring after the careful exclusion of causes of chronic cough other than gastroesophageal reflux. All 18 were then treated with high dose acid suppression therapies. Fourteen subjects underwent repeat 24-hour oesophageal impedance and cough count monitoring after eight weeks.
Results: Total reflux and acid reflux frequencies were within the normal range in the majority of this cohort. The frequencies of non-acid and proximal reflux events were above the normal range. Following high dose acid suppression therapy there was a significant decrease in the number of acid reflux events (p = 0.02), but an increase in the number of non-acid reflux events (p = 0.01). There was no change in cough frequency (p = 0.70).
Conclusions: This study confirms that non-acid reflux is prevalent; and that proximal oesophageal reflux occurs in the majority, of subjects with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis. It is the first study to investigate the effect of acid suppression therapy on gastroesophageal reflux and cough in patients with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis. The observation that cough frequency does not improve despite verifiable reductions in oesophageal acid exposure challenges the role of acid reflux in Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis associated cough. The finding that non-acid reflux is increased following the use of acid suppression therapies cautions against the widespread use of acid suppression in patients with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis given the potential role for non-acid reflux in the pathogenesis of cough and Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis itself.
Study registration: The study was registered with the Cardiff and Vale University Local Health Board Research and Development Committee (09/CMC/4619) and the South East Wales Ethics Committee (09/WSE04/57).
Keywords: Anti-reflux therapy; Cough; Gastroesophageal reflux; Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.