Date: 09 Mar 2006

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), extraesophageal reflux (EER) and recurrent chronic rhinosinusitis

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Chronic polypoid rhinosinusitis (CRS) is a common disease, affecting approximately 16% of the adult population in the US every year. In addition to many well known predisposing factors, an association with reflux disease is hypothesized. Such an association might explain the recurrence of polyposis in the face of improved surgical techniques and postsurgical treatment of CRS. At present it is unclear whether extraesophageal reflux directly injures the sinus mucosa, whether gastroesophageal reflux leads to vagus-mediated neuroinflammatory changes, or whether both mechanisms occur separately or simultaneously. In patients suffering from recurrent CRS (n=20) and healthy volunteers (n=20), ambulatory 24 h two channel pH testing was performed. The number of reflux events, the fraction of the total time during which pH was below 4, and the reflux area index (RAI) were determined in the esophagus as well as in the hypopharynx. Patients with recurrent CRS had significantly more reflux events in the esophagus and the fraction of pH<4 and the RAI were increased up to 10-fold compared to healthy volunteers. In contrast to the esophagus, these differences were not observed in the hypopharynx. Recurrent CRS is often associated with GERD but not with EER. Recurrent disease or prolonged recovery after surgery should raise the suspicion of reflux disease as a possible triggering factor. Because GERD itself cannot be diagnosed by laryngoscopy, and because of the subjectivity of symptoms such as heartburn, the otolaryngologist should consider double-probe pH testing as the diagnostic procedure of choice.