How Bad is Reflux in Children with Esophageal Atresia?

A recent retrospective study (FWT Vergouwe et al. JPGN 2019; 69: 515-22) with 57 children with esophageal atresia (EA) found most children have a normal reflux index.

This study, analyzing data between 2012-2017, reviewed all 24-hour pH-impedance (MII) studies in children at ≤18 months and 8 year olds with EA.  “All children with EA born in our hospital are offered a 24-hour pH-MII study at the age of 0.5 years and 8 years.”  In this institution, PPI treatment is given for at least 6 months after surgery. Of the 57 in the cohort, 20 had completed pH-MII at <18 months of age and 32 at age 8 years.

Key findings:

  • In children ≤18 months of age, median reflux index was 2.6% (abnormal in 2), median number of retrograde boluses was 61 (62% nonacid, 58% mixed)
  • In the older cohort (~8 years of age), median reflux index was 0.3% (abnormal in 4) and median number of retrograde boluses was 21 (64% nonacid, 75% mixed)
  • Overall, 10 of 57 children (17.5%) had GERD with reflux index >7% (n=6) or positive SI/SAP (n=4).  The authors note that much higher rates of GERD have been found in prior studies.  If they included children with fundoplication who were considered as having GERD (prior to fundoplication), then the GERD rate was 32%.

My take: This study showed that reflux in this cohort of children with EA was similar to the general population and likely indicates that a substantial portion of patients with EA do not need indefinite PPI therapy.  In children with more complex EA, PPI therapy is likely to be more beneficial.

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