We are unaware of the analyses of time series data resulting from 24 h recordings of human gastric or oesophageal pH. As a result, we have no understanding of the quantitative changes in gastric or oesophageal acidity over time, the patterns that might characterize these changes, or the physiological significance of gastro-oesophageal reflux.
To examine the time series for gastric and oesophageal pH.
Detrended fluctuation analysis and lag analysis were used to analyse data from 24 h recordings of oesophageal and gastric pH in five normal subjects and five subjects with gastro-oesophageal reflux disease.
Analyses of the patterns of gastric and oesophageal pH over time in normal subjects and subjects with gastro-oesophageal reflux disease indicate that the fluctuations in pH are self-similar across different time scales and are consistent with an underlying fractal process. Furthermore, there is a significant statistical association between sequential pH values separated by as much as 2.2 h.
We hypothesize that the self-similar, fractal pattern encodes information about gastric acidity and that the oesophagus decodes this information and, when appropriate, may signal the stomach to reduce gastric acidity. Subjects with gastro-oesophageal reflux disease might have an impaired oesophageal-gastric feedback mechanism that results in increased gastric acid, which reflux from the stomach into the oesophagus.