OBJECTIVES: Ear, nose, and throat (ENT) physicians often diagnose gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)-related laryngitis on the basis of symptoms and laryngeal signs; and may refer patients to gastroenterologists who contend that many such patients do not have reflux. Because of this dichotomy we designed this study to assess the practice pattern differences among ENT physicians and gastroenterologists in relation to the diagnosis and treatment of patients with GERD-related laryngitis. METHODS: Separate surveys were specifically designed for ENT physicians and gastroenterologists to assess the following: the percentage of patients diagnosed with GERD-related laryngitis, dose and duration of therapy, treatment response, and other diagnostic options in nonresponders. A total of 2000 surveys were mailed randomly to members of both the American Academy of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery and the American Gastroenterological Association. RESULTS: Of the total 4,000 surveys sent, 782 (39%) ENT physicians and 565 (28%) gastroenterologists responded. Most respondents (both specialties) were private practitioners (82% and 74%, respectively). From the ENT survey, the diagnosis was most commonly suspected based on the following symptoms: globus = throat clearing > cough > hoarseness. The most useful signs were laryngeal erythema and edema reported by 70% of respondents. Seventy-four percent of ENT physicians reported they made the diagnosis more on symptoms than on laryngeal signs, and initiated therapy most often with proton pump inhibitor (PPI) once daily for 2 months. Gastroenterologists were divided on pre-therapy testing, 50% reporting testing with esophagogastro-duodenoscopy followed by pH monitoring (distal > proximal) prior to therapy, while the remaining 50% reported treating empirically with PPI twice daily for 3 months. Seventy percent of gastroenterologists reported treatment response of less than 60%, while 62% of ENT physicians reported response rate of greater than 60% (p < 0.05). CONCLUSIONS: (1) Globus and throat clearing were considered the most useful symptoms in diagnosing GERD-related laryngitis, while laryngeal erythema and edema were considered the most useful signs for diagnosis and treatment of this condition by ENT physicians. However, these symptoms and signs may represent the least specific markers for reflux. (2) Many gastroenterologists perform pre-therapy testing which has low sensitivity in GERD-related laryngitis. (3) There is a dichotomy in treatment dose, duration, and perceived patient response to therapy between the two specialists. (4) Our study highlights a need for cross communication and education between these two disciplines in understanding and treating GERD-related laryngitis better.
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