Laryngopharyngeal reflux symptoms better predict the presence of esophageal adenocarcinoma than typical gastroesophageal reflux symptoms

Kevin M. Reavis, Cynthia D. Morris, Deepak V. Gopal, John G. Hunter, Blair A. Jobe, Bruce D. Schirmer, David W. McFadden, Robert Martin, Steve Eubanks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

92 Scopus citations


Objective: To determine whether the presence of laryngopharyngeal reflux symptoms is associated with the presence of esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC). Background: Most patients diagnosed with EAC have incurable disease at the time of detection. The majority of these patients are unaware of the presence of Barrett's esophagus prior to cancer diagnosis and many do not report typical symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This suggests that the current GERD symptom-based screening paradigm may be inadequate. Data support a causal relation between complicated GERD and laryngopharyngeal reflux symptoms. We theorize that laryngopharyngeal reflux symptoms are not recognized expeditiously, resulting in chronic esophageal injury and an unrecognized progression of Barrett's esophagus to EAC. Methods: This is a case-comparison (control) study. Cases were patients diagnosed with EAC (n = 63) between 1997 and 2002. Three comparison groups were selected: 1) Barrett's esophagus patients without dysplasia (n = 50), 2) GERD patients without Barrett's esophagus (n = 50), and 3) patients with no history of GERD symptoms or antisecretory medication use (n = 56). The risk factors evaluated included demographics, medical history, lifestyle variables, and laryngopharyngeal reflux symptoms. Typical GERD symptoms and antisecretory medication use were recorded. Multivariate analysis of demographics, comorbid risk factors, and symptoms was performed with logistics regression to provide odds ratios for the probability of EAC diagnosis. Results: The prevalence of patients with laryngopharyngeal reflux symptoms was significantly greater in the cases than comparison groups (P = 0.0005). The prevalence of laryngopharyngeal reflux symptoms increased as disease severity progressed from the non-GERD comparison group (19.6%) to GERD (26%), Barrett's esophagus (40%), and EAC patients (54%). Symptoms of GERD were less prevalent in cases (43%) when compared with Barrett's esophagus (66%) and GERD (86%) control groups (P < 0.001). Twenty-seven percent (17 of 63) of EAC patients never had GERD or laryngopharyngeal reflux symptoms. Fifty-seven percent of EAC patients presented without ever having typical GERD symptoms. Chronic cough, diabetes, and age emerged as independent risk factors for the development of EAC. Conclusions: Symptoms of laryngopharyngeal reflux are more prevalent in patients with EAC than typical GERD symptoms and may represent the only sign of disease. Chronic cough is an independent risk factor associated with the presence of EAC. Addition of laryngopharyngeal reflux symptoms to the current Barrett's screening guidelines is warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)849-858
Number of pages10
JournalAnnals of surgery
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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