Gastroesophageal scintigraphy in the evaluation of adult patients with chronic cough due to gastroesophageal reflux disease

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The aim of this study was to evaluate the findings of gastroesophageal scintigraphy (GES) with late lung imaging in adult patients with chronic cough due to gastroesophageal reflux disease and a group of healthy participants.


Fifty-five patients with chronic cough with reflux symptoms, and a control group of 12 healthy participants were examined. All patients had reflux esophagitis documented by upper gastrointestinal endoscopy and histology. All participants underwent laryngoscopic examination and GES. The correlation between gastroesophageal reflux and several related variables was evaluated.


Overall, 51 patients (92.7%) had positive GES findings for pathologic reflux; 19 (37.2%) of these patients had proximal reflux; and the remaining 32 (62.7%) had distal reflux. The frequency, duration, and percentage volume of gastric content of reflux episodes were significantly greater in patients with proximal reflux than in patients with distal reflux (P<0.0001). No statistically significant differences were seen between proximal reflux and distal reflux patients in terms of pulmonary function parameters, duration of cough, and reflux symptoms scores. However, severe grade (B and C) of esophagitis and the posterior laryngitis were more common in the patients with proximal reflux. Late lung imaging demonstrated evidence of pulmonary aspiration in only three of 51 (6%) patients.


Our study suggests that GES with late lung imaging objectively showed the presence of pathologic distal and/or proximal reflux, but rarely pulmonary aspiration, in the majority of chronic cough patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease. As the chronic cough patients with proximal reflux have more severe reflux characteristics, this examination may be effective in screening and following up these patients.

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