Objective: Chronic gastrointestinal symptoms and histologic changes of the esophagus unresponsive to standard treatments for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) may be improved by the use of elemental formulas. The aim of our study was to evaluate the efficacy of a dietary trial in neurologically impaired children unresponsive to medical and surgical therapy for GERD.
Methods: Nine children (three boys and six girls; median age, 44 months; range, 13–180 months) affected by cerebral palsy associated with severe mental retardation and with long-standing history of GERD were fed the elemental formula, Neocate, for a minimum of 4 weeks. Before and after the dietary trial, each child underwent endoscopy with esophageal biopsy and a cellobiose/mannitol sugar permeability test. The diagnosis of GERD was based on the microscopic changes of the esophagus.
Results: Before the dietary trial, according to conventional histologic criteria, esophagitis was considered moderate in seven children and mild in two. Five of nine patients also had abnormal sugar permeability test results. During and after the dietary trial, seven of nine patients experienced resolution of their long-term symptom complaints. Furthermore, after the dietary trial, both endoscopic (P < 0.01) and histologic (P < 0.05) findings significantly improved. At 6-month follow-up, progressive reintroduction of individual dietary proteins, except for cow's milk protein, did not cause reappearance of the symptoms.
Conclusions: In neurologically impaired children unresponsive to conventional antireflux treatments, a course of a highly restricted diet with an amino acid–based formula may bring an immediate and sustained, endoscopically and histologically proven improvement in long-standing gastrointestinal symptoms and esophagitis.