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For the Chapter in the Schwinghammer, Handbook (not Wells Handbook anymore) please go to Chapter 24, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease.



  • image Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can be described on the basis of either esophageal symptoms or esophageal tissue injury. The common symptoms include heartburn, regurgitation, chest pain, and dysphagia.

  • image Endoscopy is commonly used to evaluate mucosal injury from GERD and to assess for the presence of Barrett’s esophagus or other complications, such as strictures or adenocarcinoma.

  • image Whereas ambulatory reflux monitoring only measures acid reflux, combined impedance–pH monitoring measures both acid and nonacid reflux.

  • image The goals of GERD treatment are to alleviate symptoms, decrease the frequency of recurrent disease, promote healing of mucosal injury, and prevent complications.

  • image GERD treatment is determined by disease severity and includes: (a) lifestyle changes and patient-directed therapy with antacids, nonprescription H2-receptor antagonists, and/or nonprescription proton pump inhibitors; (b) pharmacologic treatment with prescription-strength acid suppression therapy; (c) surgery; and (d) endoscopic therapies.

  • image Patients with typical GERD symptoms should be treated with lifestyle modifications as appropriate and a trial of empiric acid suppression therapy. Those who do not respond to empiric therapy or who present with alarm symptoms such as dysphagia, weight loss, or GI bleeding should undergo endoscopy.

  • image Surgical intervention is a viable alternative treatment for select patients when long-term pharmacologic management is undesirable or when patients have complications.

  • image Acid suppression is the mainstay of GERD treatment. Proton pump inhibitors provide the greatest symptom relief and the highest healing rates, especially for patients with erosive disease or moderate-to-severe symptoms or with complications.

  • image Many patients with GERD will relapse if medication is withdrawn; so long-term maintenance treatment may be required. A proton pump inhibitor is the drug of choice for maintenance of patients with moderate-to-severe GERD.

  • image Patient medication profiles should be reviewed for drugs that may aggravate GERD. Patients should be monitored for adverse drug reactions and potential drug–drug interactions.


Preclass Engaged Learning Activity

Watch video entitled, “GERD” in AccessPharmacy by Bryan Love. This ∼6-minute video summarizes the normal function of the esophagus and stomach compared to that seen with acid reflux, complications of GERD, process of acid production, and pharmacologic therapy for GERD. Student understanding regarding the COLLECT, ASSESS, and PLAN steps of the Patient Care Process are addressed with this video.


Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a common medical disorder. A consensus definition of GERD is “symptoms or complications resulting from refluxed stomach contents into the esophagus or beyond, into the oral cavity (including the larynx) or lung.”1 The key is that these troublesome symptoms adversely affect the well-being of the patient. Episodic heartburn that is not frequent enough or painful enough to be considered bothersome by the patient is not included in this definition of GERD.


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