Clinical trial: a randomized trial of early endoscopy, Helicobacter pylori testing and empirical therapy for the management of dyspepsia in primary care

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Abstract

Background

Early endoscopy, Helicobacter pylori eradication and empirical acid suppression are commonly used dyspepsia management strategies in primary care but have not been directly compared in a single trial.

Aim

To compare endoscopy, H. pylori test and refer, H. pylori test and treat and empirical acid suppression for dyspepsia in primary care.

Methods

Patients presenting to their general practitioner with dyspepsia were randomized to endoscopy, H. pylori‘test and treat’, H. pylori test and endoscope positives, or empirical therapy with symptoms, patient satisfaction, healthcare costs and cost effectiveness at 12 months being the outcomes.

Results

At 2 months, the proportion of patients reporting no or minimal dyspeptic symptoms ranged from 74% for those having early endoscopy to 55% for those on empirical therapy (P = 0.009), but at 1 year, there was little difference among the four strategies. Early endoscopy was associated with fewer subsequent consultations for dyspepsia (P = 0.003). ‘Test and treat’ resulted in fewer endoscopies overall and was most cost-effective over a range of cost assumptions. Empirical therapy resulted in the lowest initial costs, but the highest rate of subsequent endoscopy. Gastro-oesophageal cancers were found in four patients randomized to the H. pylori testing strategies.

Conclusions

While early endoscopy offered some advantages ‘Test and treat’ was the most cost-effective strategy. In older patients, early endoscopy may be an appropriate strategy in view of the greater risk of malignant disease.

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