Healthy men younger than 45 years have the lowest risk of relapse after reflux surgery compared with other demographic subgroups, according to data from a population-based study of 2,655 adults in Sweden. The findings were published online in JAMA.

“Cohort studies have shown a high risk of recurrent symptoms of GERD after surgery, which may have contributed to the decline in the use of antireflux surgery,” but long-term reflux recurrence rates and potential risk factors have not been well studied, wrote John Maret-Ouda, MD, and colleagues at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden.

To characterize reflux recurrence after surgery, the researchers reviewed data from 2,655 adults with a median age of 51 years who underwent laparoscopic antireflux surgery between Jan. 1, 2005, and Dec. 31, 2014. Data were taken from the Swedish Patient Registry. The patients were followed for approximately 6 years, and approximately half were men ( JAMA. 2017;318[10]:939-6).

Overall, 18% of the patients suffered a reflux relapse; 84% of these were prescribed long-term medication, and 16% underwent additional surgery.

The highest relapse rates occurred among women, older patients, and those with comorbid conditions. Reflux occurred in 22% of women vs. 14% of men (hazard ratio 1.57), and the hazard ratio was 1.41 for patients aged 61 years and older compared with those aged 45 years and younger. Patients with one or more comorbidities were approximately one-third more likely to have a recurrence of reflux, compared with those who had no comorbidities (hazard ratio 1.36).

Approximately 4% of patients reported complications; the most common complication was infection (1.1%), followed by bleeding (0.9%), and esophageal perforation (0.9%).

The recurrence rate of 18% is low compared with other studies, the researchers noted. Possible reasons for the difference include the population-based design of the current study, which meant that no patients were lost to follow-up, as well as the recent time period, “in which laparoscopic antireflux surgery has become more centralized to expert centers where selection of patients might be stricter and the quality of surgery might be higher,” they wrote.

The study findings were limited by several factors including clinical variations on coding, lack of data on certain confounding variables including body mass index and smoking, and a lack of control GERD patients who did not undergo antireflux surgery, the researchers said. The results suggest that the benefits of laparoscopic antireflux surgery may be diminished by the potential for recurrent GERD, they added.

The Swedish Research Council funded the study. The researchers had no financial conflicts to disclose.


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