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Am J Gastroenterol. 2001 Feb;96(2):331-7.

Increased acid and bile reflux in Barrett's esophagus compared to reflux esophagitis, and effect of proton pump inhibitor therapy.

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Department of Medicine II, University of the Saarland, Homburg/Saar, Germany.



Barrett's metaplasia is an acquired condition resulting from longstanding gastroesophageal reflux disease. Approximately 10% of esophagitis patients develop Barrett's esophagus. There is increasing evidence that duodenogastroesophageal reflux plays a role in the progression of disease. We further analyzed the correlation of acid and biliary reflux with reflux esophagitis and Barrett's esophagus and tested the effects of proton pump inhibitor therapy.


Patients with either reflux esophagitis (group 1) or Barrett's esophagus (group 2) prospectively underwent simultaneous 24-h esophageal pH and bile reflux testing without any therapy affecting acid secretion or GI motility. A total of 16 patients in group 1 and 18 patients in group 2 were tested again under proton pump inhibitor therapy.


Acid and bile exposure were significantly increased in Barrett's patients (n = 23) compared to 20 esophagitis patients (median percentage of time that pH was <4 was 24.6% vs 12.4%, p = 0.01, median percentage of time that bilirubin absorbance was >0.2 was 34.7% vs 12.8%, p < 0.05). During therapy, both acid and bile reflux decreased significantly in both groups. Median percentage of time that pH was <4 and bilirubin absorbance was >0.2 before and during therapy was 18.2%/2.3% and 29.8%/0.7% (p = 0.001 and p = 0.001) in Barrett's esophagus patients versus 14.5%/3.6% and 21.5%/0.9% (p = 0.002 and p = 0.011) in esophagitis patients. There was no significant difference between the groups. In two esophagitis patients, bile reflux increased during therapy.


There is a good correlation of the duration of esophageal exposure to acid and bile with the severity of pathological change in the esophagus. Both acid and bile reflux is significantly suppressed by proton pump inhibitor therapy with exceptions among individual esophagitis patients. The prolonged simultaneous attack of bile and acid may play a key role in the development of Barrett's metaplasia.

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