Background A number of mechanisms, other than acid reflux, may be responsible for the symptoms of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease.
Aim To assess the importance of non-acid reflux mechanisms.
Methods This review is based on presentations and discussion at a workshop, where specialists in the field analysed data relating to these mechanisms.
Results Weakly acidic reflux, pH (4–7), detected with impedance–pHmetry is associated with regurgitation and atypical gastro-oesophageal reflux disease symptoms. It is not clear whether pepsin and trypsin can elicit symptoms, but bile can elicit heartburn. The magnitude of reflux-induced oesophageal distension can be determined by high frequency ultrasonography and is not reduced by proton pump inhibition, suggesting that persisting symptoms ‘on’ a proton pump inhibitor may still be due to oesophageal distension by non-acidic reflux. Exaggerated longitudinal muscle contraction can induce non-acid-related heartburn. Preliminary studies showed a positive effect of baclofen, surgery or endoscopic procedures to reduce weakly acidic reflux.
Conclusion Mechanisms other than acid reflux are involved in some of the symptoms of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease. Controlled outcome studies are needed to clarify their roles and the indications for antireflux procedures in patients with persistent symptoms whilst ‘on’ a proton pump inhibitor.