Indications for Treatment of Helicobacter pylori Infection: A Systematic Overview

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To determine (a) the advantages and disadvantages of treatment options for the eradication of Helicobacter pylori and (b) whether eradication of H. pylori is indicated in patients with duodenal ulcer, nonulcer dyspepsia and gastric cancer.

Data sources

A MEDLINE search for articles published in English between January 1983 and December 1992 with the use of MeSH terms Helicobacter pylori (called Campylobacter pylori before 1990) and duodenal ulcer, gastric cancer, dyspepsia and clinical trial. Six journals and Current Contents were searched manually for pertinent articles published in that time frame.

Study selection

For duodenal ulcer the search was limited to studies involving adults, studies of H. pylori eradication and randomized clinical trials comparing anti-H. pylori therapy with conventional ulcer treatment. For nonulcer dyspepsia with H. pylori infection the search was limited to placebo-controlled randomized clinical trials.

Data extraction

The quality of each study was rated independently on a four-point scale by each author. For the studies of duodenal ulcer the outcome measures assessed were acute ulcer healing and time required for healing, H. pylori eradication and ulcer relapse. For the studies of nonulcer dyspepsia with H. pylori infection the authors assessed H. pylori eradication, the symptoms used as outcome measures and whether validated outcome measures had been used.

Data synthesis

Eight trials involving duodenal ulcer met our inclusion criteria: five were considered high quality, two were of reasonable quality, and one was weak. Six trials involving nonulcer dyspepsia met the criteria, but all were rated as weak. Among treatment options triple therapy with a bismuth compound, metronidazole and either amoxicillin or tetracycline achieved the highest eradication rates (73% to 94%). Results concerning treatment indications for duodenal ulcer were consistent among all of the studies: when anti-H. pylori therapy was added to conventional ulcer treatment acute ulcers healed more rapidly. Ulcer relapse rates were dramatically reduced after H. pylori eradication. All of the studies involving nonulcer dyspepsia assessed clearance rather than eradication of H. pylori. No study used validated outcome measures. A consistent decrease in symptom severity was no more prevalent in patients in whom the organism had been cleared than in those taking a placebo. Of the studies concerning gastric cancer none investigated the effect of eradication of H. pylori on subsequent risk of gastric cancer.


There is sufficient evidence to support the use of anti-H. pylori therapy in patients with duodenal ulcers who have H. pylori infection, triple therapy achieving the best results. There is no current evidence to support such therapy for nonulcer dyspepsia in patients with H. pylori infection. Much more attention must be paid to the design of nonulcer dyspepsia studies. Also, studies are needed to determine whether H. pylori eradication in patients with gastritis will prevent gastric cancer.

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