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Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2009 Nov;21(11):1269-78. doi: 10.1097/MEG.0b013e32832a7d9b.

Management of gastroesophageal reflux disease in primary care settings in Spain: SYMPATHY I study.

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  • 1Health Care Centre Santa Mónica, Rivas-Vaciamadrid, Madrid.



Our study was designed to assess the symptom loads, treatment strategies, and impact on daily life of patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) symptoms who consulted primary care (PC) health care providers in Spain.


This was a multicenter, observational, cross-sectional study in a sample of 5735 consecutive patients visiting PC clinics with GERD symptoms. Participating primary care physicians (PCPs) collected clinical data by using a questionnaire, and completed a survey on their perceptions of diagnostic and therapeutic approaches to GERD. Patients self-completed the GERD Impact Scale during the study visit.


In the week before visiting the PC clinic, typical GERD symptoms were present in a majority of patients (89.6% heartburn and 81.6% regurgitation), but extraesophageal symptoms were also frequent (55.6% reflux-related sleep disturbances, 45.7% noncardiac chest pain, 30.8% chronic cough, and 24.7% hoarseness), these being more prevalent in the patients diagnosed earlier. Although primary care physicians considered that 55.9% of the patients could be diagnosed on the basis of symptoms without further investigation, in their practice only one-third of new diagnoses of GERD and 71.1% of those already diagnosed were symptom-managed. Upon arrival at the clinic, patients with GERD symptoms were taking the following medications: 28.1% (47.8% in the case of those already diagnosed) proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), 16.6% antacids, 6.1% H2 antagonists, and 4.5% prokinetics. Most patients (90.2%) were treated with PPIs after the study visit. The evaluation of agreement between physicians and patients on the severity of GERD resulted in a kappa index of 0.19.


There is a high occurrence of typical and extraesophageal symptoms in patients in Spain complaining of GERD symptoms in PC settings. Two-thirds of new GERD patients were referred for further investigation. PPIs were the treatment prescribed in almost all cases. The degree of agreement between physicians and patients about the severity of the symptoms was limited.

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