Diagnosis of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease is enhanced by adding oesophageal histology and excluding epigastric pain


BACKGROUND: The diagnosis of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GERD) in clinical practice is limited by the sensitivity and specificity of symptoms and diagnostic testing.

AIM: To determine if adding histology as a criterion and excluding patients with epigastric pain enhances the diagnosis for GERD.

METHODS: Patients with frequent upper gastrointestinal symptoms who had not taken a proton pump inhibitor in the previous 2 months and who had evaluable distal oesophageal biopsies were included (Diamond study: NCT00291746). Epithelial hyperplasia was identified when total epithelial thickness was at least 430 μm. Investigation-based GERD criteria were: presence of erosive oesophagitis, pathological oesophageal acid exposure and/or positive symptom-acid association probability. Symptoms were assessed using the Reflux Disease Questionnaire and a pre-specified checklist.

RESULTS: Overall, 127 (55%) of the 231 included patients met investigation-based GERD criteria and 195 (84%) met symptom-based criteria. Epithelial hyperplasia was present in 89 individuals, of whom 61 (69%) met investigation-based criteria and 83 (93%) met symptom-based criteria. Adding epithelial hyperplasia as a criterion increased the number of patients diagnosed with GERD on investigation by 28 [12%; number needed to diagnose (NND): 8], to 155 (67%). The proportion of patients with a symptom-based GERD diagnosis who met investigation-based criteria including epithelial hyperplasia was significantly greater when concomitant epigastric pain was absent than when it was present (P < 0.05; NND: 8).

CONCLUSIONS: Histology increases diagnosis of GERD and should be performed when clinical suspicion is high and endoscopy is negative. Excluding patients with epigastric pain enhances sensitivity for the diagnosis of GERD.

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