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J Gastrointest Surg. 2013 Jan;17(1):30-8. doi: 10.1007/s11605-012-2065-5. Epub 2012 Nov 10.

Reflux-associated oxygen desaturations: usefulness in diagnosing reflux-related respiratory symptoms.

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Division of Thoracic and Foregut Surgery, Department of Surgery, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, 601 Elmwood Avenue, Box SURG, Rochester, NY 14642, USA.



Current diagnostic techniques establishing gastroesophageal reflux disease as the underlying cause in patients with respiratory symptoms are poor. Our aim was to provide additional support to our prior studies suggesting that the association between reflux events and oxygen desaturations may be a useful discriminatory test in patients presenting with primary respiratory symptoms suspected of having gastroesophageal reflux as the etiology.


Thirty-seven patients with respiratory symptoms, 26 with typical symptoms, and 40 control subjects underwent simultaneous 24-h impedance-pH and pulse oximetry monitoring. Eight patients returned for post-fundoplication studies.


The median number (interquartile range) of distal reflux events associated with oxygen desaturation was greater in patients with respiratory symptoms (17 (9-23)) than those with typical symptoms (7 (4-11, p < 0.001)) or control subjects (3 (2-6, p < 0.001)). A similar relationship was found for the number of proximal reflux-associated desaturations. Repeat study in seven post-fundoplication patients showed marked improvement, with reflux-associated desaturations approaching those of control subjects in five patients; 20 (9-20) distal preoperative versus 3 (0-5, p = 0.06) postoperative; similar results were identified proximally.


These data provide further proof that reflux-associated oxygen desaturations may discriminate patients presenting with primary respiratory symptoms as being due to reflux and may respond to antireflux surgery.

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