BACKGROUND: The role of bile in the genesis of oesophageal symptoms and disease is incompletely understood. A new method of ambulatory bile monitoring may help to define this role. AIMS: To establish the relationship between symptom events and acid and bile reflux episodes. PATIENTS: 59 consecutive patients presenting for further investigation of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease. METHODS: All patients underwent combined ambulatory pH and bile monitoring. For each patient, a symptom index (SI) was calculated in relation to both acid reflux and bile reflux episodes. RESULTS: Patients were divided into those without (group 1, n = 21) and those with (group 2, n = 38) acid reflux. A total of 394 symptoms were identified in 59 patients. In group 1, there were fewer symptom events per patient (mean 4.1) than group 2 (mean 8.1). Twenty three per cent of symptom events were associated with acid reflux in group 1 and 41% in group 2. Only 6% of symptom events in both groups were related to bile reflux. In group 1 both the acid and bile related SI score were low. In group 2 the bile related SI score was low, but the acid related SI score was high. CONCLUSIONS: Symptoms are much more often related to acid reflux than bile reflux. Bile reflux does not seem to be a major factor in producing oesophageal symptoms.
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