Patients with non-erosive reflux disease (NERD) have impaired oesophageal mucosal integrity (dilated intercellular spaces). Oesophageal mucosal integrity reflects the balance between repeated reflux damage and mucosal recovery. The relationship between mucosal integrity and acid sensitivity is unclear. Oesophageal impedance may be used for in vivo mucosal integrity measurement. We studied acid-induced changes in oesophageal mucosal integrity and acid perception in patients with heartburn.Design
50 patients with heartburn whithout oesophagitis underwent impedance monitoring before, during and after 10 min oesophageal perfusion with neutral (pH6.5) and acid solutions (pH1). Symptoms and impedance were recorded during perfusion. Impedance recovery was assessed for 2 h post-perfusion in ambulatory conditions followed by 24-h impedance-pH study.Results
Reflux monitoring discriminated 20 NERD and 30 functional heartburn (FH) patients. Neutral perfusion caused impedance fall that recovered within 10 min. Acid perfusion caused impedance fall with slow recovery: 6.5 Ω/min (IQR 3.3-12.0 Ω/min). Patients with slow recovery (<25th percentile) had lower baseline impedance (1273 Ω ±208 Ω vs. 3220 Ω ±275 Ω ±, p < 0.01) and more frequent acid sensitivity (10/12 vs. 4/12, p = 0.04) than those with fast (>75th percentile) recovery. Patients with NERD had lower baseline impedance (1669 ± 182 Ω vs. 2384 ± 211 Ω, p = 0.02) and slower impedance recovery (6.0 ± 0.9 Ω/min vs. 10.7 ± 1.6 Ω/min, p = 0.03) than patients with FH.Conclusion
Impaired mucosal integrity might be the consequence of repeated reflux episodes with slow recovery. Mucosal integrity, recovery capacity and symptom perception are linked. Low basal impedance and slow recovery after acid challenge are associated with increased acid sensitivity.