Background By analysis of symptom-reflux association, endoscopy-negative refractory heartburn can be related to acid/non-acid refluxes with impedance-pH monitoring. Unfortunately, patients frequently do not report symptoms during the test. We aimed to assess the contribution of quantitative analysis of impedance-pH parameters added to symptom-reflux association in evaluating patients with endoscopy-negative heartburn refractory to high-dose proton pump inhibitor therapy.
Methods The symptom association probability (SAP), the symptom index (SI), the esophageal acid exposure time and the number of distal and proximal refluxes were assessed at on-therapy impedance-pH monitoring. Relationships with hiatal hernia and manometric findings were also evaluated.
Key Results Eighty patients were prospectively studied. Refractory heartburn was more frequently related to reflux by a positive SAP/SI and/or abnormal impedance-pH parameters (52/80 cases) (65%) than by a positive SAP/SI only (38/80 cases) (47%) (P = 0.038).
In patients with refractory non-erosive reflux disease (NERD) defined by a positive SAP/SI and/or abnormal impedance-pH parameters, the prevalence of hiatal hernia was significantly higher (56%vs 21%, P = 0.007) and the mean lower esophageal sphincter tone was significantly lower (18.7 vs 25.8 mmHg, P = 0.005) than in those (35%) with reflux-unrelated, i.e., functional heartburn (FH). On the contrary, no significant difference was observed subdividing patients according to a positive SAP/SI only.
Conclusions & Inferences Quantitative analysis of impedance-pH parameters added to symptom-reflux association allows a subdivision of refractory-heartburn patients into refractory NERD and FH which is substantiated by pathophysiological findings and which restricts the diagnosis of FH to one third of cases.