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Throat Clearing, Frequently Reported, But is it GERD Related?

Abdul-Hussein, Mustafa, MD, MSCR*; Khalaf, Mohamed, MD; Castell, Donald, MD, MACG

doi: 10.1097/MCG.0000000000000985
ALIMENTARY TRACT: Original Articles

Goals: To identify the association of throat clearing (TC) with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) during objective reflux monitoring in a large number of patients studied in our esophageal testing laboratory.

Background: TC is frequently reported and considered to be an atypical symptom of GERD. Atypical GERD symptoms have been widely investigated and empirically treated with proton pump inhibitors.

Study: We reviewed ambulatory impedance-pH studies of 186 patients referred for evaluation of possible GERD from January 2011 to December 2015 to evaluate the symptom association (SA) of TC with both an abnormal number of reflux episodes and also abnormal esophageal acid exposure (EAE). Patients were divided into 2 groups; group 1: TC is the only reported symptom, group 2: TC is one of the symptoms. All patients were studied off proton pump inhibitors therapy.

Results: Group 1 where TC was the only symptom in 27/186 (14.5%) patients. There was no significant difference in positive SA between this group (6/27; 22%) and group 2 (43/159; 27%) (Z score P=0.59). There was also no significant association between SA and abnormal EAE whether TC was the only presenting symptom (χ2, P=0.7) or one of the reported symptoms (χ2, P=0.10). None of the 6/27 had abnormal EAE.

Conclusion: Although TC is often considered a possible GERD-related symptom, we found a low probability of objective association. TC is not likely to be the only presenting symptom, and if it happens, it is unlikely to be associated with GERD. Perhaps, TC should not be considered as a GERD symptom, even as an atypical one.

*Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology

Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC

M.K.: data collection, analyzing pH-Impedance, and esophageal motility studies. D.C.: study guarantor.

The authors declare that they have nothing to disclose.

Address correspondence to: Mustafa Abdul-Hussein, MD, MSCR, Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Medical University of South Carolina, 114 Doughty Street, Suite, 249, MSC 702, Charleston, SC 29425 (e-mail:

Received September 24, 2017

Accepted December 4, 2017

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