Eradication of Helicobacter pylori has been shown to prevent relapse of endoscopically detected duodenal ulcers. There is controversy regarding symptom improvement after therapy. Some studies have suggested that a substantial number of patients remain symptomatic after eradication therapy. Other studies suggest that gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GERD) may develop as a result of H. pylori eradication.
To determine the relationship between symptoms and H. pylori eradication and to determine whether H. pylori eradication results in symptoms or endoscopic findings of GERD.
Two hundred and forty-two patients with endoscopically documented duodenal ulcer disease and evidence of H. pylori infection by rapid urease testing and histology were studied in four randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trials of H. pylori eradication therapy. All patients underwent symptom assessment and endoscopy with biopsy before therapy and 1 and 6 months after completing therapy. The rapid urease test and histology were used to determine H. pylori status. Interviewers were blinded to H. pylori status after eradication and were unaware of the endoscopic findings (interviews were performed prior to repeat endoscopy).
The presence of epigastric pain was significantly associated with persistent H. pylori infection 1 month after therapy (odds ratio 2.3, 95% CI: 1.02–5.2; P=0.041), as was nausea (OR 7.1, 95% CI: 0.93–55.6; P=0.029). The presence of epigastric pain was significantly associated with ulcer relapse at 6 months (OR 7.5, 95% CI: 3.6–15.7; P < 0.001) as was nausea (OR 5.1, 95% CI: 1.7–16.0; P=0.002). Heartburn was not associated with eradication of H. pylori or ulcer relapse. New onset reflux symptoms were reported by 17% (17 of 101 patients) at 6 months and were not significantly different in patients with (15%) and without (22%) persistent H. pylori infection (P=0.47). Erosive oesophagitis was present at endoscopy in one of the 17 cases that developed new heartburn.
One month after completion of therapy, the presence of epigastric pain or nausea is associated with persistent infection and these symptoms at 6 months are suggestive of duodenal ulcer relapse. The incidence of GERD is not increased in patients who have eradication of H. pylori.