Endoscopy of the esophagus in gastroesophageal reflux disease: are we losing sight of symptoms? Another perspective
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Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is an extremely common chronic disorder associated with impaired quality of life and huge economic burden. Recently, an International Consensus Group developed a global definition of GERD (The Montreal Definition): a condition that develops when the reflux of stomach contents causes troublesome symptoms and/or complications. The traditional endoscopy-based classification of GERD patients into one of three groups - non-erosive reflux disease, erosive esophagitis, and Barrett's esophagus - is fraught with several limitations. Due to the lack of a gold standard, GERD is a symptom-based diagnosis, and hence symptom evaluation will remain the primary means by which treatment decisions are made for patients with suspected GERD. We propose that patients reporting the predominant GERD-like symptoms (GERS) in the primary care setting be classified based upon their response to an empiric trial of acid suppressive therapy: complete response to acid suppressive therapy, partial response to acid suppressive therapy, and no response to acid suppressive therapy. Given the limitations of objective medical testing, implementation of our proposed new symptom-based classification of patients with GERS would guide primary care physicians on when to refer patients to a gastroenterologist, which in turn could help in better resource utilization. Validation of this proposed classification by well-designed prospective multicenter studies is awaited.
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