Critical appraisal of Rome IV criteria: hypersensitive esophagus does belong to gastroesophageal reflux disease spectrum

Authors Leonardo Frazzoni, Marzio Frazzoni, Nicola de Bortoli, Salvatore Tolone, Irene Martinucci, Lorenzo Fuccio, Vincenzo Savarino, Edoardo Savarino.


The Rome IV Committee introduced a major change in the classification of functional gastrointestinal disorders, proposing a more restrictive definition of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). It was suggested that hypersensitive esophagus (HE) may sit more firmly within the functional realm. It was suggested that GERD diagnosis should be based upon abnormal acid exposure time (AET) only, implying no advantage of impedance-pH over pH monitoring. Symptom association probability (SAP), symptom index (SI) and heartburn relief with proton pump inhibitor (PPI) therapy were regarded as unreliable, whereas a lack of response to PPI was considered as evidence of functional heartburn. These assumptions are contradicted by numerous studies showing the clinical relevance of weakly acidic refluxes and the diagnostic utility of SAP, SI and new impedance parameters, namely the post-reflux swallow-induced peristaltic wave (PSPW) index and the mean nocturnal baseline impedance (MNBI). The PSPW index and MNBI provide significant diagnostic advantage, particularly in patients with normal AET who can be classified as HE when both parameters are abnormal, even though SAP and SI are negative. Visceral pain modulators are recommended by the Rome IV Committee despite scanty evidence of efficacy, but a positive outcome with medical or surgical anti-reflux treatment has been reported by several studies of HE patients. Therefore, we believe that patients with endoscopy-negative heartburn should be investigated by means of impedance-pH monitoring with analysis of PSPW index and MNBI: such an approach provides accurate identification of HE cases, who remain, in our opinion, within the realm of GERD and should be treated accordingly.

Keywords Gastroesophageal reflux disease, impedance-pH monitoring, proton pump inhibitorrefractory GERD, baseline impedance, post-reflux swallow-induced peristaltic wave index

Ann Gastroenterol 2018; 31 (1): 1-7

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