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Cough threshold in reflux oesophagitis: influence of acid and of laryngeal and oesophageal damage

Abstract

BACKGROUND Gastro-oesophageal reflux is often associated with cough. Patients with reflux show an enhanced tussive response to bronchial irritants, even in the absence of respiratory symptoms.

AIM To investigate the effect of mucosal damage (either oesophageal or laryngeal) and of oesophageal acid flooding on cough threshold in reflux patients.

PATIENTS We studied 21 patients with reflux oesophagitis and digestive symptoms. Respiratory diseases, smoking, and use of drugs influencing cough were considered exclusion criteria.

METHODS Patients underwent pH monitoring, manometry, digestive endoscopy, laryngoscopy, and methacholine challenge. We evaluated the cough response to inhaled capsaicin (expressed as PD5, the dose producing five coughs) before therapy, after five days of omeprazole therapy, and when oesophageal and laryngeal damage had healed.

RESULTS In all patients spirometry and methacholine challenge were normal. Thirteen patients had posterior laryngitis and eight complained of coughing. Twenty patients showed an enhanced cough response (basal PD5 0.92 (0.47) nM; mean (SEM)) which improved after five and 60 days (2.87 (0.82) and 5.88 (0.85) nM; p<0.0001). The severity of oesophagitis did not influence PD5 variation. On the contrary, the response to treatment was significantly different in patients with and without laryngitis (p=0.038). In patients with no laryngitis, the cough threshold improved after five days with no further change thereafter. In patients with laryngitis, the cough threshold improved after five days and improved further after 60 days. Proximal and distal oesophageal acid exposure did not influence PD5. Heartburn disappeared during the first five days but the decrease in cough and throat clearing were slower.

CONCLUSIONS Patients with reflux oesophagitis have a decreased cough threshold. This is related to both laryngeal inflammation and acid flooding of the oesophagus but not to the severity of oesophagitis. Omeprazole improves not only respiratory and gastro-oesophageal symptoms but also the cough threshold.

  • oesophagitis
  • cough
  • laryngitis
  • pathogenesis
  • treatment
  • gastro-oesophageal reflux
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Footnotes

  • Abbreviations used in this paper:
    GOR
    gastro-oesophageal reflux
    FEV1
    forced expiratory volume in one second
    PD5
    dose of capsaicin producing five coughs
    PD20
    dose of methacholine causing a 20% fall in FEV1
    LOS
    lower oesophageal sphincter
    ORL
    otolaryngological

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