This retrospective study was undertaken to characterise the clinical course and reflux pattern of patients with gastro-oesophageal reflux without evidence of oesophagitis. We investigated 33 patients (12 women, 21 men; mean age 36 years) with typical symptoms, a negative oesophagoscopy, and a 24 hour oesophageal pH-metry indicative of pathological gastro-oesophageal reflux. All patients received antacids or prokinetic drugs or both for three to six months. Nineteen of 33 patients still had symptoms at the end of treatment, of whom five had developed erosive changes of the oesophageal mucosa. The other 14 discontinued treatment and remained asymptomatic during a six month follow up period. Comparison of the pretreatment pH-metry data of the 19 symptomatic patients and the 14 asymptomatic patients showed no differences in the pattern of gastro-oesophageal reflux in the two groups. We conclude that in a substantial proportion of patients with pathological reflux without oesophagitis symptoms may persist and mucosal lesions may develop during conventional treatment without any apparent change in the reflux. Patients who developed endoscopic oesophagitis did not have a more severe pretreatment pattern of gastro-oesophageal reflux when compared with those who did not develop oesophageal mucosal damage.
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