Diagnosis and Management of Functional Heartburn

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Heartburn is among the most common gastrointestinal symptoms presenting to both generalist physicians and gastroenterologists. Heartburn that does not respond to traditional acid suppression is a diagnostic and therapeutic dilemma. In the era of high utilization of proton pump inhibitors, a substantial proportion of patients presenting to the gastroenterologist with chronic symptoms of heartburn do not have a reflux-mediated disease. Subjects without objective evidence of reflux as a cause of their symptoms have “functional heartburn”. The diagnostic role of endoscopy, reflux and motility testing in functional heartburn (FH) patients is discussed. Lifestyle modifications, pharmacological interventions, and alternative therapies for FH are also presented. Recognition of patients with FH allows earlier assignment of these patients to different treatment algorithms, which may allow greater likelihood of success of treatment, diminished resource utilization and improved quality of life. Further data on this large and understudied group of patients is necessary to allow improvement in treatment algorithms and a more evidence-based approach to care of these patients.

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