Patterns of food and acid reflux in patients with low-grade oesophagitis—the role of an anti-reflux agent


Washington Department of Surgery, E Floor, West Block, Queen’s Medical Centre, Nottingham NG7 2UH, UK.



Food and acid have been shown to be refluxed independently of each other in healthy volunteers, and anti-reflux agents decrease the reflux of both parameters. Until now this phenomenon had not been studied in patients with low-grade oesophagitis, who are the group most likely to use anti-reflux medication.


To assess patterns of gastro-oesophageal reflux of acid and food in 12 ambulant patients with endoscopically proven oesophagitis of between grades I and II, but who were otherwise healthy. Also to assess the effectiveness of a single dose of an alginate-containing anti-reflux agent in controlling food and acid reflux in this patient group.


Oesophageal pH monitoring and external ambulatory gamma detection were used to study food and acid reflux. A pH electrode was positioned 5 cm above the cardia and the gamma detector was positioned externally over the pH electrode. The patients then received a technetium-99m labelled meal designed to provoke reflux. Thirty minutes later the patients were given a 20 ml dose of alginate (Liquid Gaviscon), or 20 ml of tap water. Incidence of reflux was monitored for approximately 4 h from the end of the meal. Allocation to treatment group was randomized, with patients receiving the alternative treatment on the second study day after approximately a 7-day washout period.


The mean percentage time oesophageal pH remained below 4 was 16.3 min for the control group and 5.4 min for the treatment group (P=0.03). Food reflux was detected 23.7% of the time in the control group compared to 12% of the time in the treatment group (P=0.02). The anti-reflux agent was also successful in decreasing the number of events, but the duration of the reflux events was not significantly different.


Patients with grades I and II oesophagitis reflux food and acid independently, and are predominantly either food refluxers or acid refluxers, but not both. Liquid alginate decreases the number of both food and acid reflux events, but does not change their duration.