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Study shows increase in hospitalizations for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (www.ahrq.gov) studied the hospital records of patients with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) between 1998 and 2005. Overall, there was a significant increase in hospitalizations for all age groups due to Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD).

Highlights of the 11 page report include:

Infants and children:

o Hospitalizations for infants with GERD under the age of two years of age increased by 42%
o Hospitalizations for children with GERD ages 2-17 years increased by 84%

Other research has revealed a sharp increase in the use of medications for infants and children with GERD. At the same time, there appears to be a sharp rise in hospitalizations related to GERD. More research is needed to determine if there is an increase in infants and children with GERD or increased awareness, leading to increased use of medications and medical care (doctor’s visits, tests, hospitalizations). There is some evidence that the childhood obesity epidemic is fueling the increase in childhood GERD.

All Age Groups:

o Overall, hospitalizations for a main diagnosis of GERD or as a secondary problem increased 216%.
o Hospitalization increased significantly for patients with a GERD diagnosis due to an esophageal disorder: 264% increase for dysphagia (swallowing disorder), 195% for esophagitis and 94% for esophageal adenocarcinoma (cancer).
o Eight out of 1000 hospitalizations for patients with a GERD diagnosis had Barrett’s Esophagus.

Adult GERD may be on the increase due to the rise in obesity as well as public awareness of GERD from the media.

GERD Surgery:

o Overall, inpatient GERD surgery decreased by 27%.
o There was a 109% increase in GERD surgery for infants and a 108% increase in surgery for children ages 2-17 years.

There is a trend toward outpatient GERD surgery for adults, leading to a decrease in inpatient hospitalization in the adult population. With the many dietary, lifestyle and medication options for treating infants and children with GERD, it is surprising that hospital stays for GERD surgery has increased so sharply.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) remains a common chronic illness and appears to be on the increase due to lifestyle factors such as obesity. Further, it is a costly condition, leading to billions of dollars in long term care including prescription medication, hospitalization and surgery. My hope is the study will be used in a positive way to help researchers and policy makers to continue to study best practices and expand treatment options for all age groups. GERD is more than “a little heartburn”. Rather, it is a long term health condition with the potential for side effects and secondary health problems.

Zhao, Y., and Encinosa, W. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) Hospitalizations in 1998 and 2005. HCUP Statistical Brief #44. January 2008. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.hcup-us.ahrq.gov/reports/statbriefs/sb44.pdf


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