..Heartburn that persists despite proton-pump inhibitor ( #PPI ) treatment is a frequent clinical problem with multiple potential causes. Treatments for PPI-refractory heartburn are of unproven efficacy and focus on controlling gastroesophageal reflux with reflux-reducing medication (e.g., baclofen) or antireflux surgery or on dampening visceral hypersensitivity with neuromodulators (e.g., desipramine).
Prerandomization procedures excluded 288 patients: 42 had relief of their heartburn during the 2-week omeprazole trial, 70 did not complete trial procedures, 54 were excluded for other reasons, 23 had non-GERD esophageal disorders, and 99 had functional heartburn (not due to GERD or other histopathologic, motility, or structural abnormality). The remaining 78 patients underwent randomization. The incidence of treatment success with surgery (18 of 27 patients, 67%) was significantly superior to that with active medical treatment (7 of 25 patients, 28%; P=0.007) or control medical treatment (3 of 26 patients, 12%; P<0.001). The difference in the incidence of treatment success between the active medical group and the control medical group was 16 percentage points (95% confidence interval, −5 to 38; P=0.17).
Among patients referred to VA gastroenterology clinics for PPI-refractory heartburn, systematic workup revealed truly PPI-refractory and reflux-related heartburn in a minority of patients. For that highly selected subgroup, surgery was superior to medical treatment.