Although the prevalence of reflux esophagitis is known to increase with age, data on the long-term outcome of esophagitis in elderly patients are scarce. We sought to evaluate the clinical outcome of elderly patients with esophagitis 6 months to 3 years after diagnosis and to identify specific prognostic indicators of a poor outcome. This was a long-term (6 months to 3 years) follow-up study. Patients older than 65 years of age diagnosed as having reflux esophagitis healed after acute treatment (2 to 4 months) were included in the study. Clinical examinations and upper gastrointestinal endoscopy were performed every 6 months for the first year and annually thereafter. After healing, no therapy was prescribed; in the event of symptom recurrence, a maintenance therapy consisting either of H2 blockers or proton pump inhibitors (PPI) was prescribed. At baseline and during follow-up, the following clinical parameters were recorded: gender, age, the presence of symptoms (heartburn, acid regurgitation, epigastric/chest pain), type and dose of the maintenance therapy, nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drug use; gastric Helicobacter pylori infection, diagnosis of hiatal hernia, and/or Barrett's esophagus. The chi-square test, the Kaplan-Meier test, and Cox's proportional hazards regression analysis were used for statistical analyses. Included in the final analysis were 138 patients (M/F, 81/57; mean age, 79.7 years; range, 66–97). The numbers of patients in need of maintenance therapy were 47 of 69 (68.1%) after 6 months, 29 of 58 (50%) after 12 months, 17 of 39 (43.6%) after 24 months, and 12 of 26 (46.1%) after 36 months of follow-up. A significantly higher esophagitis relapse rate was found in patients not treated compared with subjects who were in maintenance therapy: 59% versus 8.5% (P < .0001) at 6 months, 65.5% versus 20.7% at 12 months (P < .002), 63.6% versus 11.7% at 24 months (P = .003), and 57.1% versus 8.3% at 36 months (P = .02). No significant difference in relapse rate was found in patients treated with H2 blockers versus PPIs (21.7% versus 10%). The Cox model demonstrated that no maintenance treatment (P = .00001), the presence of typical symptoms (P = .00001), the presence of hiatal hernia (P = .03), and a high severity grade of esophagitis at baseline (P = .009) were risk factors for relapse of esophagitis. In elderly subjects, esophagitis relapse occurs in a high percentage of cases, particularly in patients not treated with antisecretory drugs. The presence of typical symptoms, hiatal hernia, and a severe grade of esophagitis are risk factors for relapse. The most effective measure for minimizing the occurrence of relapse is a maintenance therapy with antisecretory drugs.