Gastroesophageal reflux disease can be divided into three categories: nonerosive GERD (NERD), erosive GERD (ERD), and Barrett's esophagus. A shift among these categories rarely occurs. The aim of the present study was to elucidate potential patient-associated risk factors associated with ERD.
A total of 6,215 patients with troublesome heartburn were recruited to a large, prospective, multicenter open cohort study comprising an initial treatment phase and a 5-yr follow-up phase. Each center planned to recruit an equal number of patients with NERD and ERD. All patients underwent an interview based on standardized questionnaires, a physical examination, and endoscopy with biopsies. Data were analyzed by multiple logistic regression analysis.
Risk factor analysis was performed on 5,289 patients (NERD: n = 2,834; ERD: n = 2,455), which was the intent-to-treat population excluding patients with suspected/proven complicated reflux disease. Stepwise regression analysis identified the following independent predictors of ERD: male gender, overweight, regular use of alcohol, a history of GERD >1 yr, and smoker or ex-smoker. A higher level of education and a positive Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) status were associated with a lower risk of ERD.
Some patient-associated factors increase the risk of erosive esophagitis as opposed to nonerosive reflux disease. However, no single factor or combination of factors is capable of predicting mucosal damage with clinically sufficient certainty. Thus, endoscopy is still required in all GERD patients if valid information on the state of the esophageal mucosa is needed.