Background and Aims: Patients with autoimmune atrophic gastritis (AAG) often complain of acid reflux symptoms, despite the evidence of hypo-achlorhydria. Rome IV criteria are used to define functional esophageal disorders. Our aim was to characterize gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) phenotypes in patients with AAG.

Methods: Between 2017-2018, 172 AAG patients were evaluated at Gastro-Oncology outpatient clinic of University of Padua. Of them, 38 patients with reflux symptoms underwent high-resolution manometry (HRM) and multichannel intraluminal impedance-pH monitoring (MII-pH). Seventy-six AAG consecutive patients asymptomatic for gastroesophageal reflux were selected as age and gender matched controls. Serum biomarkers (pepsinogens, gastrin-17 and Helicobacter pylori antibodies), upper endoscopy, histology and clinical data were compared.

Results: Out of 38/172 (22%) AAG patients with reflux symptoms, 2/38 had a GERD diagnosis based on abnormal esophageal acid exposure and 6/38 had a major motility disorder (i.e. outflow obstruction). Among the 30/38 patients with normal endoscopic findings, 9/30 had reflux hypersensitivity, 19 functional heartburn, 1 functional globus, 1 functional chest pain according to the Rome IV criteria. Antral atrophy, advanced corpus atrophy and OLGA stage were more frequent in controls than in reflux patients (p=0.01, p=0.031, p=0.01, respectively). No differences were found for serum biomarkers and symptom presentation. Most of the patients received proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) treatment (87%), with a minority (34%) reporting clinical benefit.

Conclusions: Reflux symptoms are relatively common in AAG patients, but a firm diagnosis of GERD is rare (5%), whereas most of the patients have a functional disorder. PPI treatment is mostly clinical ineffective and should not be largely indicated.


gastroesophageal reflux disease, autoimune gastritis, Rome IV, Proton Pump Inhibitors, Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders