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Clin Pharm. 1983 Nov-Dec;2(6):546-57.

Current concepts in the pathogenesis and treatment of reflux esophagitis.


The etiology, pathogenesis, diagnosis, and treatment of reflux esophagitis are reviewed. Reflux esophagitis is the subjective or objective response to gastroesophageal reflux (GER), which is defined as the entrance of gastroduodenal contents into the esophagus not associated with vomiting or belching. The pathogenesis of reflux esophagitis may involve a number of mechanisms, including changes in lower esophageal sphincter pressure, gastric volume, composition of the refluxate, esophageal acid clearance, and esophageal tissue resistance. The most common symptom of reflux esophagitis is heartburn. Regurgitation of fluid into the mouth, usually after bending or during the night, is an unequivocal symptom of GER. Treatment can be divided into three phases. Phase 1 involves the avoidance of certain foods and habits, elevation of the bed head, antacid, and alginic acid-antacid therapy. Phase 2 involves drug therapy with agents not yet approved by the FDA for this indication: bethanechol chloride, cimetidine, and metoclopramide hydrochloride. Bethanechol chloride 25 mg is generally given four times daily. Cimetidine is given in doses of 300-400 mg after meals and at bedtime. Metoclopramide hydrochloride is administered in doses of 10 mg before meals and at bedtime. Phase 3 is antireflux surgery. Clinical experience has shown that phase 1 therapy is successful for about 75% of all patients. Of the 25% that do not respond to phase 1 therapy, about 90% will respond to phase 2 therapy, leaving only 5-10% of all patients with this disorder who will require phase 3 treatment. Current data favor cimetidine and bethanechol over metoclopramide. The least proof of efficacy and the most frequent adverse side effects are seen with metoclopramide. Cimetidine and bethanechol appear to have similar efficacy and relatively infrequent side effects. Evidence confirming the superiority of cimetidine over bethanechol is lacking. Further research is needed to determine the optimal pharmacologic combinations and treatment regimens.

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