Duodenitis and gastric metaplasia, which is often colonised by Helicobacter pylori (H pylori), are increasingly recognised for their importance in the pathogenesis of duodenal ulcers. The situation is not clear in patients receiving non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), who have a higher risk of peptic ulceration. The aim of this study was to identify the duodenal histological abnormalities in the presence or absence of NSAIDs, H pylori, and duodenal ulceration. Endoscopic duodenal biopsy specimens were taken from healthy looking mucosa of 172 patients (74 took NSAIDs, and 98 did not). Duodenitis was graded according to the degree of neutrophilic and plasma cell infiltration, villus height, Brunner's gland prolapse, and gastric metaplasia. The activity of duodenitis was dependent on the neutrophilic infiltration. A global score covering all the above factors was constructed, and H pylori in both the stomach and duodenum, was also assessed. The results showed that duodenitis with varying degrees of neutrophilic infiltration and gastric metaplasia was found in 20 patients (27%) taking NSAIDs, compared with 56 patients (57%) not taking NSAIDs (chi 2 = 16.24, p < 0.001). This degree of duodenitis was also found in 20 of 25 patients (80%) with duodenal ulcers, regardless of NSAID intake (chi 2 = 15.38, p < 0.001). Gastric metaplasia was identified in 20 patients (27%) receiving NSAIDs and 38 (39%) not receiving NSAIDs. Duodenal H pylori was only seen in patients with gastric metaplasia 10 (50%) receiving NSAIDs, and 34 (89%) not receiving NSAIDs. H pylori positive gastritis, and the combination of active duodenitis and gastric metaplasia were independent predictors of duodenal ulceration. It is concluded that active duodenitis is less common in patients taking NSAIDs but is strongly associated with gastric metaplasia, H pylori positive gastritis, and duodenal ulceration. These findings are relevant to the pathogenesis and treatment of duodenal ulcers in patients taking NSAIDs.
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