BACKGROUND/AIMS--Reducing oesophageal acid exposure by suppressing acid secretion with omeprazole is highly effective in healing reflux oesophagitis. Some patients with severe oesophagitis, fail to heal and whether this results from inadequate acid suppression or other factors is unclear. The aim of this study, was to investigate the relation between oesophageal acid exposure and healing in patients with severe reflux oesophagitis treated with omeprazole. METHODS--Sixty one patients with grade 3 or 4 ulcerative oesophagitis were treated for eight weeks with omeprazole 20 mg every morning. Those patients unhealed at eight weeks were treated with 40 mg every morning for a further eight weeks. Endoscopy and 24 hour oesophageal pH monitoring were performed before treatment and at the end of each treatment phase while receiving treatment. RESULTS--Thirty per cent of patients failed to heal with the 20 mg dose. Unhealed patients had greater total 24 hour oesophageal acid exposure before treatment, and while receiving treatment also had greater acid exposure and a smaller reduction in acid exposure than did patients who healed. Forty seven per cent of the unhealed patients also failed to heal with the 40 mg dose. These patients had similar levels of acid exposure before treatment to those who healed, but had greater acid exposure while receiving treatment, particularly at night when supine. CONCLUSIONS--Patients with severe ulcerative oesophagitis who are refractory to omeprazole have greater oesophageal acid exposure while receiving treatment than responding patients. This is due to a reduced responsiveness to acid suppression, and is likely to be an important factor underlying the failure of the oesophagitis to heal.
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