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Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease in Asthma: Effects of Medical and Surgical Antireflux Therapy on Asthma Control

Bowrey, David J. FRCS(Engl); Peters, Jeffrey H. MD; DeMeester, Tom R. MD


Objective To critique the English-language reports describing the effects of medical and surgical antireflux therapy on respiratory symptoms and function in patients with asthma.

Methods The Medline computerized database (1959–1999) was searched, and all publications relating to both asthma and gastroesophageal reflux disease were retrieved.

Results Seven of nine trials of histamine-receptor antagonists showed a treatment-related improvement in asthma symptoms, with half of the patients benefiting. Only one study identified a beneficial effect on objective measures of pulmonary function. Three of six trials of proton pump inhibitors documented improvement in asthma symptoms with treatment; benefit was seen in 25% of patients. Half of the studies reported improvement in pulmonary function, but the effect occurred in fewer than 15% of patients. In the one study that used optimal antisecretory therapy, asthma symptoms were improved in 67% of patients and pulmonary function was improved in 20%. Combined data from 5 pediatric and 14 adult studies of antireflux surgery indicated that almost 90% of children and 70% of adults had improvement in respiratory symptoms, with approximately one third experiencing improvements in objective measures of pulmonary function.

Conclusions Fundoplication has been consistently shown to ameliorate reflux-induced asthma; results are superior to the published results of antisecretory therapy. Optimal medical therapy may offer similar results, but large studies providing support for this assertion are lacking.

From the Department of Surgery, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California

Correspondence: Jeffrey H. Peters, MD, Dept. of Surgery, University of Southern California, HCC Suite 514, 1510 San Pablo St., Los Angeles, CA 90033-4612.

Accepted for publication September 14, 1999.

© 2000 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.