Gastroparesis associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease and corresponding reflux symptoms

Surg Endosc. 2008 Nov;22(11):2440-4

BACKGROUND: Reflux is a common medical condition with symptoms ordinarily controlled using drug/medical therapy. However, 20% of patients experience unmanageable symptoms despite twice-daily (BID) proton pump inhibitor (PPI) therapy. Growing clinical evidence shows that delayed gastric emptying (gastroparesis) may be a factor associated with severe reflux, dyspepsia, or both. Gastroparesis, concomitant in 25% of patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), has been shown to improve after Nissen fundoplication. Radiofrequency treatment for GERD potentially corrects GERD-associated gastroparesis and resultant PPI BID reflux failures.

METHODS: From July 2000 until July 2004, 227 patients undergoing Stretta for GERD were screened for gastric anomalies. Patients with gastroparesis, documented on a standardized nuclear gastric emptying scans, and patients with heartburn and regurgitation uncontrolled by PPI BID medications underwent radiofrequency ablation of the cardia and esophagogastric junction via the Stretta procedure. The patients had esophagogastroduodenoscopy and/or pH studies, manometry, solid-phase gastric emptying, and electrogastrography and completed standardized heartburn and health-related quality-of-life surveys before treatment, then 6 months afterward. Patients with pyloric obstruction and those taking motility agents were excluded from the study. Gastric emptying scans were repeated 6 months after Stretta. The nuclear radiologist was blinded to the study design.

RESULTS: At baseline, 31 patients were classified as abnormal. At 6 months after the procedure, emptying scores had improved significantly, with the percentage of solid food emptied at 90 min improved from 41% to 66% (p < 0.0001) and at 120 minutes from 55% to 84%. Significant improvements were seen at all intervals. Overall, 23 patients (74%) experienced normalization of gastric emptying, and 4 patients were improved but remained abnormal. Four patients showed no improvement on their gastric emptying scans, with one patient electing to undergo a Nissen procedure. All the patients  had a 1-year symptom follow-up assessment, which showed significant improvements in GERD health-related quality of life, dyspepsia, and heartburn scores.

CONCLUSIONS: Radiofrequency treatment has been demonstrated to correct gastroparesis. Patients' symptoms improved significantly. The mechanism of action is unknown but may be related to reduction in transient lower esophageal sphincter relaxations (TLESRs), increased esophagogastric junction barrier, decreased esophageal venting, alteration of the gastric pacemaker function in the region of radiofrequency therapy administration, removal of medications for symptoms, or a combination of all these.