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Prevalence of gastroesophageal reflux in a Tunisian primary care population determined by patient interview


Dr Nabil Ben Chaabane, MD, Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Monastir Hospital, Monastir 5000, Tunisia. Email:


Although gastresophageal reflux disease (GERD) is highly prevalent in Western countries, we have very little data about it in African countries. The aim of the study is to determine the prevalence and severity of GERD symptoms among Tunisian subjects and report its characteristics, consultation rate, management modes, as well as patients' satisfaction. Five hundred subjects living in Tunisia were interviewed face to face. The study was conducted at seven centers of primary care at Monastir's department by six interviewer doctors. The questionnaire consisted of 30 questions relating to subject attributes, lifestyle factors, medical history, reflux-related symptom characteristics, consultation behavior, previous treatments for GERD, and description of the last episode. Symptoms were defined as ‘frequent’ if they occurred at least weekly and ‘occasional’ if they occurred less frequently during the last year. The mean age was 42.3 ± 17.3 years and 75.6% were females. Over the previous year, 60% of the respondents reported suffering any GERD symptom. The prevalence of frequent GERD is 24%. Female gender (odds ratio [OR]: 1.97[1.15–3.37]) and body mass index ≥ 25 (OR: 1.54[1.042–2.29]) were associated with increased risk of GERD symptom. Only 22.3%, sought medical advice about GERD symptoms in the last year. In the univariate and multivariate analysis, work status, frequency and intensity of symptoms, duration of symptom, and association of atypical symptoms were associated with a higher frequency of medical consultation for GERD symptoms. Among the subjects complaining about heartburn, 34% took medications. GERD symptoms are common among Tunisian subjects. Few heartburn sufferers seek medical attention, and most do not take medications for symptomatic control.