Aim: To discuss some of the critical issues in the management of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Opinion: GERD is a chronic relapsing disease characterized by pathological exposure of the distal esophagus to gastric acid. Diagnosis of the condition can often be made on the basis of symptomatology alone. Endoscopy can help in assessing the degree of esophageal damage, influencing the choice of therapy, and should be performed at least once during a symptomatic patient's lifetime to exclude a diagnosis of Barrett's esophagus. However, endoscopy is mandatory at diagnosis if alarm symptoms are present. Treatment should aim to provide the lowest degree of acid suppression needed for the control of symptoms. Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) represent the most cost-effective treatment option for the short- and long-term management of GERD. Compared with standard- and high-dose H2-receptor antagonists, PPIs result in superior and faster healing and symptom relief across all grades of esophagitis and are more effective at maintaining patients in symptomatic and endoscopic remission. Treatment with PPIs has also been shown to reduce the rate of recurrent stricture after initial dilatation. PPIs are generally well tolerated, and to date there have been no reports of gastric dysplasia resulting from their long-term use. Anti-reflux surgery should be reserved for patients who are unresponsive to continuous PPI therapy or perhaps for young patients. It will be several years before the impact of laparoscopic fundoplication as a cost-beneficial therapy for GERD can be assessed.
Conclusion: The superior clinical efficacy of PPIs when compared with any other drug regimen for GERD make them the treatment of choice for the short- and long-term management of this troublesome condition.