The Clinical Characteristics and Impact of Laryngopharyngeal Reflux Disease on Health-Related Quality of Life


Chris L. Pashos, HERQuLES, Abt Associates Clinical Trials, 55 Wheeler Street, Cambridge, MA 02138. E-mail:


Background and objectives:  Although it is accepted that reflux of stomach acid causes gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), it is less well understood that it also contributes to the clinical signs and symptoms of laryngitis in the form of laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR). Study objectives were to identify what is known about the impact of LPR on health-related quality of life (HRQL) compared with the impact of GERD on HRQL and to assess whether currently available HRQL instruments adequately measure this impact or if a new disease-specific instrument should be recommended.

Methods:   The authors combined a systematic literature review with prospective patient evaluation via focus groups. The review, using MEDLINE, focused on clinical characteristics and HRQL measurement and impact. Focus groups involving a total of 30 patients with LPR provided input on clinical manifestations of the disease and its HRQL impact.

Results:  Information gleaned from the literature indicates that less than 40% of patients presenting with symptoms of laryngitis directly attributable to reflux also report experiencing the classic symptoms of heartburn and acid regurgitation associated with GERD. Reflux laryngitis is thus a distinct clinical entity from GERD and may have a unique impact on HRQL. Although multiple instruments are available to assess the impact of GERD on HRQL, no specific instruments are available for LPR. Focus group discussions identified voice problems, chronic cough, throat clearing, and swallowing difficulties to be key concerns of patients with LPR. These manifestations negatively impact HRQL as described by the focus group participants, notably in role functioning, physical well-being, and emotional well-being.

Conclusions:  A disease-specific instrument to assess the impact of LPR on HRQL would contribute to clinical care and the evaluation of new therapies. This instrument would ideally be sensitive to the variety of LPR's symptomatic presentations.