Does Reflux Really Worsen After Gastrostomy Placement in Children?

A recent prospective longitudinal cohort study (J Franken et al. JPGN 2020; 70: e41-47) examined the development of gastroesophageal reflux (GER) in 50 children  who underwent gastrostomy tube (GT) placement between 2012-2014.

Key findings:

  • GER symptoms were present before and after GT placement: in 44% and 40% respectively.

Among the 25 who underwent pre- and post-operative impedance-pH analysis

  • there was not a significant change in acid exposure: 6.2% vs. 6.1%
  • there was not a significant change in reflux episodes
  • Prior to GT placement, 18 of 25 (72%) had pathologic reflux.  Afterwards, 18 of 25 (72%) had pathologic reflux –though this included 4 with new onset reflux and 4 with resolved reflux

My take: This study shows that reflux symptoms and documented reflux are commonplace in children undergoing GT placement.  Based on this limited sample size, it appears that GER does not appreciably change following GT placement.

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How helpful is a pH-Impedance Study in Identifying Reflux-Induced Symptoms?

In both kids and adults, individuals presenting with complaints of reflux more often have other problems like functional heartburn or reflux hypersensitivity (see posts below).  A recent prospective, cross-sectional study (LB Mahoney et al. JPGN 2020; 70: 31-36) provides data that further shows that abnormal pH-impedance (pH-MII) testing does NOT predict reduced quality of life (QOL) in children with reflux symptoms (n=82).

Key findings:

  • 38% had abnormal pH-MII testing; however, there were no significant differences in QOL scores on any of the tested questionairres between those with normal or abnormal pH-MII studies.
  • Subjects with gross esophagitis on EGD reported significantly worse QOL scores. Microscopic esophagitis was not associate with differences in QOL scores.

The implication of this study is that reflux without esophagitis is NOT a driver of abnormal QOL parameters; instead, functional GI disorders are likely more important.

My take: This study makes it clear that gross endoscopic findings are much more consequential than abnormal pH-MII studies.

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