The prevalence of abnormal acid gastroesophageal reflux (GER) is higher in patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) than in matched control subjects. Several studies demonstrated that more than one-third of patients with IPF have abnormal esophageal acid exposures. In addition, many of these studies indicate that the majority of patients with IPF have silent reflux with no symptoms of GER. Findings of abnormal reflux persist in a large proportion of patients with IPF placed on antacid therapy such as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). This seemingly paradoxical observation suggests that either patients with IPF are somehow resistant to PPI-based intervention or PPIs are inherently unable to suppress acid GER. By contrast, patients with IPF who undergo Nissen fundoplication surgery are effectively relieved from the complications of GER, and retrospective studies suggest improved lung function. Retrospective, anecdotal data suggest a beneficial role of PPIs in IPF including stabilization of lung function, reduction in episodes of acute exacerbation, and enhanced longevity. The recent evidence-based guidelines for treatment of IPF approved conditional recommendation of PPIs for all patients with IPF regardless of their GER status. Recently, we have reported that PPIs possess antiinflammatory and antifibrotic activities by directly suppressing proinflammatory cytokines, profibrotic proteins, and proliferation of lung fibroblasts. Our study provides an alternative explanation for the beneficial effect of PPIs in IPF. In this Perspective, we reviewed emerging progress on antifibrotic effect of PPIs using IPF as a disease model. In addition, we summarized surgical and pharmacological interventions for GER and their downstream effect on lung physiology.
Keywords: antireflux surgery; fibrosis; gastroesophageal reflux; lung inflammation; proton pump inhibitors.