Changing impact of gastroesophageal reflux in medical and otolaryngology practice

Kenneth W. Altman*, Robbin M. Stephens, Christopher S. Lyttle, Kevin B. Weiss

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


Objectives/Hypothesis: A major trend in gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is an observed increased prevalence of the problem, with an associated burden on health care resources. There are relatively few objective reports of increasing prevalence of this disease, and there are no epidemiologic reports that discuss changing practice strategies in managing the disease. The clinical problem is of critical importance to practicing otolaryngologists, who manage the impact of GERD on diseases affecting the ear, nose, and throat. The hypothesis of this thesis is that 1) GERD is an increasing problem affecting outpatient office visits over time, and 2) the disease is increasingly managed with prescription pharmacotherapy. Study Design: Retrospective national medical database review using the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey. Methods: Twelve years of data (1990-2001) were examined with visits weighted to provide U.S. estimates of care. Average annual frequencies and visit rates were calculated for total visits and by age, sex, race, and physician specialty. Selected issues in GERD treatment were also examined, including prescriptions and physician/patient counseling regarding stress management, tobacco abuse, and diet modification. Trends were reported based on changes in care across three time periods to satisfy statistical significance: 1990 to 1993, 1994 to 1997, and 1998 to 2001. Results: Between 1990 and 1993 and 1998 and 2001, there was a significant increase in U.S. ambulatory care visits for GERD, from a rate of 1.7 per 100 to 4.7 per 100. There were no significant changes in race, although there was a small trend toward increased GERD visits in the age group over 44 years old and in the male sex. Office visits to otolaryngologists increased from 89,000 to 421,000 between the time periods of 1990 to 1993 and 1998 to 2001. This also represented a percent increase in office encounters by otolaryngologists compared with visits by all specialties from 2.9% to 4.4%. Over the three time periods, there was a fall in prescriptions for histamine (H2) blockers from 58.1% to 20.7% of total prescriptions. Over the same three time periods, prescriptions of proton pump inhibitors increased from 13.2% to 64.6%. Physician recommendations for over the counter medications fell from 18.8% to 6.6%. Average annual counseling during ambulatory care visits for GERD was assessed for the period from 1998 to 2001 as follows: diet counseling was provided at 27.2% of encounters, tobacco cessation counseling was provided at 3.9%, and stress management was discussed at 3.9%. Conclusions: During the 1990s, there was a substantial increase in the use of ambulatory care services for GERD. Although much of this increase was among the primary care community, otolaryngologists appeared to have an increasingly prominent role in the management of this disease. There have also been dramatic changes in physician prescribing patterns for GERD, with the emergence of the predominant role of proton pump inhibitors. However, the use of physician counseling for lifestyle modification of factors known to affect GERD remains very low. The increasing impact of GERD on physician practice emphasizes the importance of both physician and patient education in the delivery of health care related to this disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1145-1153
Number of pages9
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2005


  • Aerodigestive tract disease
  • Asthma
  • Epidemiology
  • Gastroesophageal reflux
  • National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey
  • Physician counseling
  • Tobacco use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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