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Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. Howard J. McGowan, Maj, USAF, MC. Objectives. Definition of GERD Epidemiology of GERD Pathophysiology of GERD Clinical Manisfestations Diagnostic Evaluation Treatment Complications. Definition. American College of Gastroenterology (ACG)

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Gastroesophageal reflux disease l.jpg

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

Howard J. McGowan, Maj, USAF, MC

Objectives l.jpg

  • Definition of GERD

  • Epidemiology of GERD

  • Pathophysiology of GERD

  • Clinical Manisfestations

  • Diagnostic Evaluation

  • Treatment

  • Complications

Definition l.jpg

  • American College of Gastroenterology (ACG)

    • Symptoms OR mucosal damage produced by the abnormal reflux of gastric contents into the esophagus

    • Often chronic and relapsing

    • May see complications of GERD in patients who lack typical symptoms

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Physiologic vs Pathologic

  • Physiologic GERD

    • Postprandial

    • Short lived

    • Asymptomatic

    • No nocturnal sx

  • Pathologic GERD

    • Symptoms

    • Mucosal injury

    • Nocturnal sx

Epidemiology l.jpg

  • About 44% of the US adult population have heartburn at least once a month

  • 14% of Americans have symptoms weekly

  • 7% have symptoms daily

Pathophysiology l.jpg

  • Primary barrier to gastroesophageal reflux is the lower esophageal sphincter

  • LES normally works in conjunction with the diaphragm

  • If barrier disrupted, acid goes from stomach to esophagus

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Clinical Manisfestations

  • Most common symptoms

    • Heartburn—retrosternal burning discomfort

    • Regurgitation—effortless return of gastric contents into the pharynx without nausea, retching, or abdominal contractions

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Clinical Manisfestations

  • Dysphagia—difficulty swallowing

  • Other symptoms include:

    • Chest pain, water brash, globus sensation, odynophagia, nausea

  • Extraesophageal manifestations

    • Asthma, laryngitis, chronic cough

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Diagnostic Evaluation

  • If classic symptoms of heartburn and regurgitation exist in the absence of “alarm symptoms” the diagnosis of GERD can be made clinically and treatment can be initiated

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  • Alarm Signs/Symptoms

    • Dysphagia

    • Early satiety

    • GI bleeding

    • Odynophagia

    • Vomiting

    • Weight loss

    • Iron deficiency anemia

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Trial of Medications

  • H2RA or PPI

    • Expect response in 2-4 weeks

    • If no response

      • Change from H2RA to PPI

      • Maximize dose of PPI

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Trial of Medications

  • If PPI response inadequate despite maximal dosage

    • Confirm diagnosis

      • EGD

      • 24 hour pH monitor

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  • Endoscopy (with biopsy if needed)

    • In patients with alarm signs/symptoms

    • Those who fail a medication trial

    • Those who require long-term tx

  • Lacks sensitivity for identifying pathologic reflux

  • Absence of endoscopic features does not exclude a GERD diagnosis

  • Allows for detection, stratification, and management of esophageal manisfestations or complications of GERD

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  • 24-hour pH monitoring

    • Accepted standard for establishing or excluding presence of GERD for those patients who do not have mucosal changes

    • Trans-nasal catheter or a wireless, capsule shaped device

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Patient with heartburn

Iniate tx with H2RA or PPI

H2RA taken


PPI taken QD


Good response


Good response




Increase to

max dose QD

or BID

Maintenance therapy

with lowest effective dose

Frequent relapses



On demand tx

Symptoms persist

Good response


Consider EGD if

risk factors present

(> 45, white, male

and > 5 yrs of sx)

Confirm diagnosis

EGD, ph monitor

Gerd vs dyspepsia l.jpg
GERD vs Dyspepsia

  • Distinguish from Dyspepsia

    • Ulcer-like symptoms-burning, epigastric pain

    • Dysmotility like symptoms-nausea, bloating, early satiety, anorexia

  • Distinct clinical entity

  • In addition to antisecretory meds and an EGD need to consider an evaluation for Helicobacter pylori

Treatment l.jpg

  • Goals of therapy

    • Symptomatic relief

    • Heal esophagitis

    • Avoid complications

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Better Living

  • Lifestyle modifications

    • Avoid large meals

    • Avoid acidic foods (citrus/tomato), alcohol, caffiene, chocolate, onions, garlic, peppermint

    • Decrease fat intake

    • Avoid lying down within 3-4 hours after a meal

    • Elevate head of bed 4-8 inches

    • Avoid meds that may potentiate GERD (CCB, alpha agonists, theophylline, nitrates, sedatives, NSAIDS)

    • Avoid clothing that is tight around the waist

    • Lose weight

    • Stop smoking

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  • Antacids

    • Over the counter acid suppressants and antacids appropriate initial therapy

    • Approx 1/3 of patients with heartburn-related symptoms use at least twice weekly

    • More effective than placebo in relieving GERD symptoms

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  • Histamine H2-Receptor Antagonists

    • More effective than placebo and antacids for relieving heartburn in patients with GERD

    • Faster healing of erosive esophagitis when compared with placebo

    • Can use regularly or on-demand

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Cimetadine 400mg twice daily 400-800mg twice daily


Famotidine 20mg twice daily 20-40mg twice daily


Nizatidine 150mg twice daily 150mg twice daily


Ranitidine 150mg twice daily 150mg twice daily


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  • Proton Pump Inhibitors

    • Better control of symptoms with PPIs vs H2RAs and better remission rates

    • Faster healing of erosive esophagitis with PPIs vs H2RAs

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Esomeprazole 40mg daily 20-40mg daily


Omeprazole 20mg daily 20mg daily


Lansoprazole 30mg daily 15-10md daily


Pantoprazole 40mg daily 40mg daily


Rabeprazole 20mg daily 20mg daily


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  • H2RAs vs PPIs

    • 12 week freedom from symptoms

      • 48% vs 77%

    • 12 week healing rate

      • 52% vs 84%

    • Speed of healing

      • 6%/wk vs 12%/wk

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  • Antireflux surgery

    • Failed medical management

    • Patient preference

    • GERD complications

    • Medical complications attributable to a large hiatal hernia

    • Atypical symptoms with reflux documented on 24-hour pH monitoring

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  • Antireflux surgery candidates

    • EGD proven esophagitis

    • Normal esophageal motility

    • Partial response to acid suppression

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  • Antireflux surgery

    • Tenets of surgery

      • Reduce hiatal hernia

      • Repair diaphragm

      • Strengthen GE junction

      • Strengthen antireflux barrier via gastric wrap

      • 75-90% effective at alleviating symptoms of heartburn and regurgitation

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  • Postsurgery

    • 10% have solid food dysphagia

    • 2-3% have permanent symptoms

    • 7-10% have gas, bloating, diarrhea, nausea, early satiety

    • Within 3-5 years 52% of patients back on antireflux medications

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  • Endoscopic treatment

    • Relatively new

    • No definite indications

    • Select well-informed patients with well-documented GERD responsive to PPI therapy may benefit

  • Three categories

    • Radiofrequency application to increase LES reflux barrier

    • Endoscopic sewing devices

    • Injection of a nonresorbable polymer into LES area

Complications l.jpg

  • Erosive esophagitis

  • Stricture

  • Barrett’s esophagus

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  • Erosive esophagitis

    • Responsible for 40-60% of GERD symptoms

    • Severity of symptoms often fail to match severity of erosive esophagitis

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  • Esophageal stricture

    • Result of healing of erosive esophagitis

    • May need dilation

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  • Barrett’s Esophagus

    • Columnar metaplasia of the esophagus

    • Associated with the development of adenocarcinoma

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  • Barrett’s Esophagus

    • Acid damages lining of esophagus and causes chronic esophagitis

    • Damaged area heals in a metaplastic process and abnormal columnar cells replace squamous cells

    • This specialized intestinal metaplasia can progress to dysplasia and adenocarcinoma

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  • Patient’s who need EGD

    • Alarm symptoms

    • Poor therapeutic response

    • Long symptom duration

  • “Once in a lifetime” EGD for patient’s with chronic GERD becoming accepted practice

  • Many patients with Barrett’s are asymptomatic

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  • Barrett’s Esophagus

    • Manage in same manner as GERD

    • EGD every 3 years in patient’s without dysplasia

    • In patients with dysplasia annual to shorter interval surveillance

Summary l.jpg

  • Definition of GERD

  • Epidemiology of GERD

  • Pathophysiology of GERD

  • Clinical Manisfestations

  • Diagnostic Evaluation

  • Treatment

  • Complications