Another study (Funderburk et al. JPGN 2016; 62: 556-61) has shown that gastroesophageal reflux disease is infrequent in infants with a “strong clinical suspicion for reflux.” This is a good to know since we also know that pharmacologic therapy for gastroesophageal reflux has not been proven to be effective in infancy either.
This retrospective study with 58 infants, including 40 preterm infants, evaluated for GERD with MII-pH studies. Characteristics of cohort: median gestational age 31 weeks, median birth wt 1683 gm, and median age at study: 70 days. 10 patients were receiving acid suppression therapy.
Indications for testing:
- Irritability 55%
- Bradycardia 34%
- Desaturation 31%
- Cough 21%
- Gagging 12%
- Difficulty feeding 12%
- Arching 10%
- Apnea 5%
- Only 6 infants (~10%) had abnormal MII-pH studies (defined as >95th percentile for reflux episodes/hours or >95th percentile for acid exposure time)
- None of the symptom indices correlated with symptoms. SI, SSI, or SAP
- The majority of reflux episodes did not correlate with clinical “reflux” behaviors
- Small bore (5 Fr) NG tubes were not associated with increased reflux.
In the related commentary by Rachel Rosen (pgs 517-18), she noted that “there is little to no evidence to show that the 3 indices predict any meaningful clinical outcome…including response to fundoplication, or medications.” “The current literature fails to support the use of symptom indices to prove causality when resolution of symptoms with medical or surgical therapies is used as the criterion standard.”
My take: The vast majority of infants with “reflux behaviors” do not have reflux. Even if they do, current pharmacologic therapies have not been shown to work. So, there is little value in reflux testing in most infants. Finally, given the failure of symptom indices, does the addition of the impedance data to the pH data add any value?
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