Study objective: To evaluate experience using a therapeutic trial of proton-pump inhibitor therapy with or without a prokinetic agent in diagnosis and treatment of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)-related cough.
Design: A review of experience with 214 patients with cough of ≥ 3 weeks referred over 3.5 years. An anatomic diagnostic protocol was used to identify and treat those with GERD-related cough.
Setting: A pulmonary specialty practice affiliated with the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.
Patients: One hundred eighty-three patients were identified with chronic cough and were included in the study. Thirty-one patients were disqualified because of abnormal chest radiographic findings, inadequate follow-up, or cough being not the primary complaint. Fifty-six patients were identified as having GERD-related cough.
Interventions: A once-daily dose of a proton-pump inhibitor was prescribed. A prokinetic agent was added if esophageal dysfunction was suspected or response was inadequate. Those who did not respond underwent 24-h esophageal pH monitoring.
Results: GERD was the single cause of cough in 24 patients (43%). Twenty-nine patients (52%) had GERD plus another cause, and 3 patients (5%) had GERD with more than two causes. Twenty-four patients (43%) had cough only, while 32 patients (57%) had other symptoms of GERD. Proton-pump therapy was successful in 42 patients (79%). Twenty-four patients responded to proton-pump inhibitor therapy, and 18 patients responded when metoclopramide or cisapride was added. The remaining two patients responded to a histamine type-2 blocker or cisapride alone. The cough was eliminated or markedly improved in 38 patients (86%) after 4 weeks and by 8 weeks in the remaining 6 patients. Six of the nonresponders had aspiration diagnosed by bronchoscopy. Four patients had fundoplication recommended, and two patients responded to alternative interventions.
Conclusions: Four to 6 weeks of a proton-pump inhibitor alone or in combination with a prokinetic agent successfully diagnoses and treats four of five patients with GERD-related cough. Twenty-four-hour esophageal pH monitoring will confirm the diagnosis in the others. These patients may be candidates for fundoplication. Nonresponders often aspirate as an additional aggravating factor.