Imipramine for Treatment of Esophageal Hypersensitivity and Functional Heartburn: A Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial

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Objectives:Tricyclic antidepressants could be effective in the treatment of symptoms related to hypersensitive esophagus through their pain-modulating effect. We therefore assessed the benefit of imipramine in patients with esophageal hypersensitivity and functional heartburn.Methods:Patients with normal endoscopy findings and typical reflux symptoms despite standard-dose proton-pump inhibitor therapy underwent 24-h pH-impedance monitoring. Patients with established esophageal hypersensitivity or functional heartburn were randomly assigned to receive 8 weeks of either once-daily imipramine 25 mg (n=43) or placebo (n=40). The primary end point was satisfactory relief of reflux symptoms, defined as a >50% reduction in the gastroesophageal reflux disease score. The secondary end point was improvement in quality-of-life (QoL) as assessed by the 36-Item Short Form Health Survey score.Results:Patients receiving imipramine did not achieve a higher rate of satisfactory relief of reflux symptoms than did patients receiving placebo (intention-to-treat (ITT) analysis: 37.2 vs. 37.5%, respectively; odds ratio (OR), 0.99; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.41–2.41; per-protocol (PP) analysis: 45.5 vs. 41.2%, respectively; OR, 1.19; 95% CI, 0.45–3.13). Subgroup analysis to assess the efficacy of imipramine for either esophageal hypersensitivity or functional heartburn yielded similar results. Treatment with imipramine provided significant improvement of QoL by PP analysis (72±17 and 61±19, respectively;P=0.048), but ITT analysis did not reveal any differences between imipramine and placebo (68±19 and 61±19, respectively;P=0.26). Adverse events were similar in both groups; however, constipation was more common with imipramine than placebo (51.2 vs. 22.5%, respectively;P=0.01).Conclusions:Although low-dose imipramine shows potential QoL benefits, it does not relieve symptoms more effectively than does placebo in patients with either esophageal hypersensitivity or functional heartburn.

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