• 24-h pharyngo-esophageal impedance and pH monitoring;
  • chronic cough;
  • gastro-esophageal reflux disease;
  • swallowing-induced pharyngeal reflux;
  • weakly acidic pharyngeal gas reflux


Background  Gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD)-related chronic cough (CC) may have multifactorial causes. To clarify the characteristics of esophagopharyngeal reflux (EPR) events in CC patients whose cough was apparently influenced by gastro-esophageal reflux (GER), we studied patients with CC clearly responding to full-dose proton pump inhibitor (PPI) therapy (CC patients).

Methods  Ten CC patients, 10 GERD patients, and 10 healthy controls underwent 24-h ambulatory pharyngo-esophageal impedance and pH monitoring. Weakly acidic reflux was defined as a decrease of pH by >1 unit with a nadir pH >4. In six CC patients, monitoring was repeated after 8 weeks of PPI therapy. The number of each EPR event and the symptom association probability (SAP) were calculated. Symptoms were evaluated by a validated GERD symptom questionnaire.

Key Results  Weakly acidic gas EPR and swallowing-induced acidic/weakly acidic EPR only occurred in CC patients, and the numbers of such events was significantly higher in the CC group than in the other two groups (P < 0.05, respectively). Symptom association probability analysis revealed a positive association between GER and cough in three CC patients. Proton pump inhibitor therapy abolished swallowing-induced acidic/weakly acidic EPR, reduced weakly acidic gas EPR, and improved symptoms (all P < 0.05).

Conclusions & Inferences  Most patients with CC responding to PPI therapy had weakly acidic gas EPR and swallowing-induced acidic/weakly acidic EPR. A direct effect of acidic mist or liquid refluxing into the pharynx may contribute to chronic cough, while cough may also arise indirectly from reflux via a vago-vagal reflex in some patients.