Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is common, but less so than widely reported because of inconsistencies in definition. In clinical practice, the diagnosis is usually based on a symptom assessment without testing, and the extent of diagnostic testing pursued should be limited to that which guides management or which protects the patient from the risks of a potentially morbid treatment or an undetected early (or imminent) esophageal adenocarcinoma or which does both. When testing is pursued, upper gastrointestinal endoscopy is the most useful initial diagnostic test because it evaluates for the major potential morbidities (Barrett's, stricture, and cancer) associated with GERD and facilitates the identification of some alternative diagnostic possibilities such as eosinophilic esophagitis. However, endoscopy is insensitive for diagnosing GERD because most patients with GERD have non-erosive reflux disease, a persistent diagnostic dilemma. Although many studies have tried to objectify the diagnosis of GERD with improved technology, this is ultimately a pragmatic diagnosis based on response to proton pump inhibitor (PPI) therapy, and, in the end, response to PPI therapy becomes the major indication for continued PPI therapy. Conversely, in the absence of objective criteria for GERD and the absence of apparent clinical benefit, PPI therapy is not indicated and should be discontinued. PPIs are well tolerated and safe, but nothing is perfectly safe, and in the absence of measurable benefit, even a miniscule risk dominates the risk-benefit assessment.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Immunology and Microbiology(all)
- Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)