Can Impedance-pH Testing on Medications Reliably Identify Patients with GERD as Defined by Pathologic Esophageal Acid Exposure off Medications?

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Journal of gastrointestinal surgery : official journal of the Society for Surgery of the Alimentary Tract


Antireflux surgery; Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD); Impedance-pH testing; Proton pump inhibitor (PPI)


INTRODUCTION: Impedance-pH testing (MII-pH) while patients are on acid suppression medications is frequently used to evaluate persistent reflux symptoms. The aim of this study was to determine whether MII-pH on medications can reliably identify patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) as defined by pathologic esophageal acid exposure off medications, and to determine if there is a threshold of total reflux episodes on medications where pH testing off medications may be unnecessary.

METHODS: A retrospective review identified all patients between 1/2010 and 4/2017 who underwent MII-pH testing on PPI medications and subsequently had pH testing off medications. GERD was defined on pH testing off medications by an abnormal DeMeester Score (DMS) and on MII-pH on medications by ≥ 48 total reflux episodes. Patients with an abnormal DMS by MII-pH on medications were excluded.

RESULTS: There were 71 patients, (22 males; 49 females), with a median age of 52 years. Based on ≥ 48 total reflux episodes by MII-pH testing on medications, 42 patients (59%) had GERD. When tested off medications, an abnormal DMS was present in 44 patients (62%). Among those with GERD based on impedance testing on medications, 31% did not have GERD based on pH testing off medications. Further, in the 29 patients with ≤ 48 total reflux episodes on MII-pH (normal test), 15 patients (52%) had pathologic acid exposure off medications. When there were > 73 reflux events with MII-pH on medications, all 15 patients in our series had pathologic acid exposure on pH testing off medications.

CONCLUSION: MII-pH testing on medications in patients with refractory GERD symptoms does not reliably correlate with a diagnosis of GERD as defined by pathologic esophageal acid exposure off medications. The commonly used abnormal MII-pH test value of ≥ 48 total reflux episodes is not validated and should not be used. However, in our series, patients with > 73 total reflux episodes had a high likelihood of having pathologic acid exposure off medications. Overall, the preferred strategy to evaluate patients with persistent GERD symptoms on acid suppression therapy should be pH testing off medications.

Clinical Institute

Digestive Health