BACKGROUND: Upper gastrointestinal symptoms attributable to gastroesophageal reflux disease or peptic ulcer are common, but the outcome of proton pump inhibitor therapy in clinical practice is not well documented.
AIM: To assess the range of upper gastrointestinal acid-related symptoms in clinical practice and the rapidity of their response to pantoprazole (40 mg daily), after seven days of therapy.
METHODS: A total of 726 Canadian physicians (65.3% family physicians) recorded a working diagnosis and alarm features in eligible patients, who then recorded the severity of eight upper gastrointestinal symptoms in a daily symptom diary during the first week of therapy.
RESULTS: Complete data were obtained from 2273 (37.3% male) of 3261 patients; physicians diagnosed reflux esophagitis alone (66.9%), peptic ulcer (9.7%), other upper gastrointestinal disorders (12.3%) and reflux esophagitis with another diagnosis (11.1%). Alarm features were common (29.6%), but a history of gastrointestinal blood loss was rare (less than 1%). Mean daytime heartburn scores decreased from 2.59 to 1.40, and epigastric pain scores decreased from 2.54 to 1.56 over the first week (P<0.00001); the proportions of patients who became symptom-free were 68.1% and 55.4%, respectively. Decreased mean symptom scores were also observed for acid regurgitation (2.21 to 1.35), bloating (2.47 to 1.57), nausea (2.03 to 1.36), slow digestion (2.51 to 1.56) and burping (2.56 to 1.69). The percentage of patients with severe or very severe symptoms decreased from 53.5% to 13.8% at day 7. The physician’s initial diagnosis was not predictive of outcome.
CONCLUSIONS: In a predominantly primary care population with upper gastrointestinal acid-related symptoms, proton pump inhibitor therapy produces prompt symptomatic relief in most patients. Potential alarm symptoms are common, and further research is required to determine the absolute risk of alarm symptoms and their implications for empirical therapy.