Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease is a common condition with a complex pathophysiology. Despite the spectrum of abnormalities, gastric acid has a central role in mucosal damage, and the mainstay of medical treatment is suppression of gastric acid secretion. The results of antisecretory treatment as assessed by endoscopic healing are reviewed. H2 receptor antagonists give more rapid symptom relief than placebo and can produce endoscopic improvement in 31-88% of cases depending on the severity of oesophagitis. Complete healing, however, is seen only in 27-45% of patients and these have mainly grades I-II disease. Improved healing rates can be obtained by increasing the degree of acid suppression or the length of treatment. The addition of a prokinetic agent may be beneficial. Omeprazole heals 67-92% of patients overall and although most successful in the lower grades of oesophagitis, can also heal 48-62% of patients with grade IV disease. The degree and rate of healing seem to be related to the reduction in oesophageal acid exposure and thus may correlate with the degree and duration of acid suppression over 24 hours obtained by the various treatments. The underlying pathophysiology is unchanged, however, and long term treatment may be needed to maintain remission.
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