I have occasionally quipped that pediatric gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is evolving as the new epidemic of the early 21st century. Perhaps there’s something to it.
At the 2008 meeting of the North American Society of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition held last week in Salt Lake City noted reflux epidemiologist Dr. Susan Nelson of Northwestern University presented the results of a study which demonstrates that rising numbers of children being diagnosed with reflux. Using an insurance claims database covering over 5 million people, the study looked at the diagnosis and treatment pattern of reflux in kids over a 6 year period.
While there’s lots to the study, I found the following factoids most interesting:
*Infants have experienced a 262% rise in the incidence (the number of new occurrences in the population) of reflux between 2000 and 2005.
*The incidence of reflux in children between the ages of 2 and 17 years of age was found to rise by 30-50% over the same time period.
*Proton pump inhibitors (like Prevacid and Nexium) are progressively overtaking histamine receptor antagonists (like Zantac and Axid) as the preferred method of controlling reflux in children.
And interestingly this rise in new reflux diagnoses isn’t the result of overspecialization of pediatrics … 91% of children appear to be diagnosed by their primary care physician.
While there are limitations to Dr. Nelson’s study, it’s clear that the recognition of GERD in children is on the rise. Is there actually more reflux than years before? It’s unlikely although the study presented by Dr. Nelson doesn’t address this issue.
This fascinating research was presented in abstract form and publication is expected at a later date.