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Gut. 2002 Sep;51(3):351-5.

Bile reflux gastritis and intestinal metaplasia at the cardia.

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  • 1Academic Unit of Pathology, University of Leeds, UK.



Intestinal metaplasia (IM) at the cardia is likely to be a precursor of cardia cancer. Previous work has shown that it is associated with chronic inflammation attributable to either gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) or Helicobacter pylori infection. An alternative aetiological factor is bile reflux. Duodenogastric reflux brings about histological changes in the gastric mucosa that can be graded and used to calculate a bile reflux index (BRI). We used the BRI to assess whether reflux of bile plays a part in the development of cardia IM.


Histological changes in simultaneous gastric antrum and cardia biopsies from 267 dyspeptic patients were independently graded by two pathologists. The association between cardia IM and age, sex, clinical group, H pylori status, increased BRI (>14), and inflammation at the cardia were evaluated using logistic regression.


A total of 226 patients had adequate cardia and antral biopsies; 149 had GORD and 77 had non-ulcer dyspepsia. Cardia IM was present in 66 (29%) patients, of whom 28 (42%) had complete IM. Increasing age, male sex, chronic inflammation, and a high BRI emerged as significant independent associations with cardia IM. Clinical group and H pylori status were not independent risk factors.


Histological evidence of bile reflux into the stomach is associated with cardia IM. This could have an important bearing on carcinogenesis at this site.

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