Diagnosis and management of laryngopharyngeal reflux disease

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Purpose of review

Laryngopharyngeal reflux should no longer be underestimated because of its negative impact on the lives of patients and its potentially dangerous long-term complications.

Recent findings

Both laryngopharyngeal reflux and gastroesophageal reflux disease are caused by mucosal injury from acid and pepsin exposure, but the esophagus has intrinsic antireflux defenses that prevent mucosal injury (bicarbonate production, mucosal tissue resistance and esophageal motor function with acid clearance) whereas the pharynx and the larynx do not. Symptoms felt to be most related to reflux (≥ 95%) are throat clearing, persistent cough, heartburn/dyspepsia, globus sensation (lump in the throat) and voice-quality change, while the physical examination findings include (≥ 95%) arytenoid erythema, vocal-cord erythema and edema, posterior commissure hypertrophy, and arytenoid edema. In this regard, the reflux symptom index and the reflux finding score are very useful clinical tools. Patients are proposed an empirical therapeutic trial including behavioural and dietary recommendations and a 3-month twice-daily proton-pump inhibitor therapy. The proton-pump inhibitor should be taken 30–60 min before meals. Nonresponders undergo an assessment, ideally based on esogastroduodenoscopy and ambulatory multichannel intraluminal impedance and pH monitoring. Transnasal esophagoscopy in the outpatient setting is a safe alternative. When medical management fails, patients with demonstrable high-volume reflux and lower sphincter incompetence are often candidates for surgical intervention.


The algorithm proposed by Ford has structured and confirmed our attitude on a day-to-day basis.

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