Patients with chronic gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) who have failed long-term proton pump inhibitor (PPI) therapy can benefit from surgical intervention with magnetic sphincter augmentation, according to a new study that has validated the long-term safety and efficacy of this procedure.

All 85 patients in the cohort had used PPIs at baseline, but this declined to 15.3% at 5 years. Moderate or severe regurgitation also decreased significantly. It was present in 57% of patients at baseline, but in 1.2% at the 5-year follow-up.

In a second related study, researchers found that compared with patients on esomeprazole therapy, GERD patients who underwent laparoscopic antireflux surgery (LARS), experienced significantly greater reductions in 24-hour esophageal acid exposure after 6 months and at 5 years. Both procedures were effective in achieving and maintaining a reduction in distal esophageal acid exposure down to a normal level, but LARS nearly abolished gastroesophageal acid reflux.

Both studies were published in the May issue of Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology (doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2015.05.028 ; doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2015.07.025 ).

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is caused by excessive exposure of esophageal mucosa to gastric acid. Left unchecked, it can lead to chronic symptoms and complications, and is associated with a higher risk for Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal adenocarcinoma.

In the first study, Dr. Robert A. Ganz of Minnesota Gastroenterology PA, Plymouth, Minn., and colleagues, conducted a prospective international study that looked at the safety and efficacy of a magnetic device in adults with GERD.

The Food and Drug Administration approved this magnetic device in 2012, which augments lower esophageal sphincter function in patients with GERD, and the current paper now reports on the final results after 5 years of follow-up.

Quality of life, reflux control, use of PPIs, and side effects were evaluated, and the GERD health-related quality of life (GERD-HRQL) questionnaire was administered at baseline to patients on and off PPIs, and after placement of the device.

A partial response to PPIs was defined as a GERD-HRQL score of 10 or less on PPIs and a score of 15 or higher off PPIs, or a 6-point or more improvement when scores on vs. off PPI were compared.

During the follow-up period, there were no device erosions, migrations, or malfunctions. The median GERD-HRQL score was 27 in patients not taking PPIs and 11 in patients on PPIs at the start of the study. After 5 years with the device in place, this score decreased to 4.

All patients reported that they had the ability to belch and vomit if they needed to. The proportion of patients reporting bothersome swallowing was 5% at baseline and 6% at 5 years (P = .739), and bothersome gas-bloat was present in 52% at baseline but decreased to 8.3% at 5 years.

“Without a procedure to correct an incompetent lower esophageal sphincter, it is unlikely that continued medical therapy would have improved these reflux symptoms, and the severity and frequency of the symptoms may have worsened,” wrote the authors.

In the second study, Dr. Jan G. Hatlebakk of Haukeland University Hospital, Bergen, Norway, and his colleagues analyzed data from a prospective, randomized, open-label trial that compared the efficacy and safety of LARS with esomeprazole (20 or 40 mg/d) over a 5-year period in patients with chronic GERD.

Among patients in the LARS group (n = 116), the median 24-hour esophageal acid exposure was 8.6% at baseline and 0.7% after 6 months and 5 years (P less than .001 vs. baseline).

In the esomeprazole group (n = 151), the median 24-hour esophageal acid exposure was 8.8% at baseline, 2.1% after 6 months, and 1.9% after 5 years (P less than .001, therapy vs. baseline, and LARS vs. esomeprazole).

Gastric acidity was stable in both groups, and patients who needed a dose increase to 40 mg/d experienced more severe supine reflux at baseline, but less esophageal acid exposure (P less than .02) and gastric acidity after their dose was increased. Esophageal and intragastric pH parameters, both on and off therapy, did not seem to long-term symptom breakthrough.

“We found that neither intragastric nor intraesophageal pH parameters could predict the short- and long-term therapeutic outcome, which indicates that response to therapy in patients with GERD is individual and not related directly to normalization of acid reflux parameters alone,” wrote Dr. Hatlebakk and coauthors.