Background: The introduction of laparoscopic fundoplication (LF) has lowered the threshold for operation in patients with symptoms attributed to gastroesophageal reflux. We sought to determine whether the outcomes in patients referred for atypical symptoms (pulmonary, pharyngolaryngeal, and pain syndromes) were as good as those referred for correction of heartburn and regurgitation (typical symptoms).
Methods: Thirty-five of 150 consecutive patients undergoing LF with a minimum of 12 months of follow-up were referred primarily for correction of atypical symptoms. A standard preoperative evaluation included endoscopy, manometry, upper gastrointestinal contrast radiography, and 24-hour pH probe testing (33 of 35 patients with atypical symptoms). Patients completed a symptom questionnaire administered by a study nurse before the operation and 3 and 12 months after the operation. Symptoms were scored from 0 to 10.
Results: Heartburn was relieved by LF in 93% of patients, whereas only 56% of patients had relief of atypical symptoms. Furthermore, the degree of improvement in typical symptoms was greater than that seen for atypical symptoms as measured by the 0 to 10-symptom rating score (improvement in typical symptoms = 6.2 vs improvement in atypical symptoms = 4.4 [p = 0.01]). The response rate for laryngeal, pulmonary, and epigastric/chest pain symptoms was 78%, 58%, and 48%, respectively. Analysis of factors associated with relief of atypical symptoms revealed that response to a preoperative trial of omeprazole or H2-blockers was significantly associated with successful surgical outcome (p = 0.03). Six of seven patients with laryngeal symptoms who had acid reflux above the cricopharyngeal level shown by dual-probe pH testing had relief of the symptoms after LF. Manometric findings (amplitude of esophageal body contractions, propagation of contractions, and lower esophageal sphincter resting pressure) neither predicted nor correlated with relief of atypical symptoms after the operation.
Conclusions: Relief of atypical symptoms attributed to gastroesophageal reflux by LF is less satisfactory and more difficult to predict than relief of heartburn and regurgitation. The only useful preoperative predictors of relief of atypical symptoms in this study were the response to pharmacologic acid suppression and dual-probe pH testing (only in patients with laryngeal symptoms).