In the absence of highly specific symptoms and without esophageal erosions, long-term pH monitoring is necessary for diagnosing gastroesophageal reflux disease. This method, however, is not generally available.
To determine whether gastroesophageal reflux disease can be diagnosed empirically by acid suppression in patients with normal results of endoscopy.
We studied 33 consecutive outpatients with pathologic findings on pH monitoring who had symptoms compatible with gastroesophageal reflux disease and normal results of esophagogastroduodenoscopy, particularly a normal appearance of the esophageal mucosa. The severity of symptoms was graded on a visual analog scale from 1 to 10 by the patient. The patients were treated for at least 7 days with either ranitidine, 150 mg twice daily (patients 1 through 10), omeprazole, 40 mg/d (patients 11 through 21), or omeprazole, 40 mg twice daily (patients 22 through 33). A reassessment of symptoms and second pH monitoring were performed during the last day of treatment.
Omeprazole, 40 mg/d, significantly reduced the severity of symptoms from 7.1 (range, 4 to 9) to 3.7 (0 to 8) and the reflux measure mean acidity from 0.98 mmol/L (0.21 to 76 mmol/L) to 0.02 mmol/L (0 to 0.47 mmol/L). Omeprazole, 40 mg twice daily, significantly reduced the severity of symptoms from 6.8 (3 to 10) to 0.6 (0 to 2) and the mean acidity from 0.38 mmol/L (0.13 to 8.5 mmol/L) to 0.01 mmol/L (0 to 0.14 mmol/L). Both doses of omeprazole were superior to ranitidine, 150 mg twice daily. When a 75% reduction of symptoms was defined as positive, the "omeprazole test" with 40 mg twice daily had a sensitivity of 83.3%, whereas the sensitivity with 40 mg/d was only 27.2%.
In practice, the diagnosis of gastroesophageal reflux disease can be ruled out if symptoms do not improve with a limited course of high-dose proton pump inhibitors.(Arch Intern Med. 1995;155:1808-1812)