Little is known about possible underlying psychological abnormalities and physiology of reflux hypersensitivity (RH) as defined in the recent Rome IV classification. We aimed to assess markers of psychological comorbidity as well as gastro-esophageal reflux measurements in RH patients compared to controls and also in patients with functional heartburn (FH) and non-erosive reflux disease (NERD) versus controls.
Data of 304 patients visiting our Functional Diagnostics Centre from 2016 to 2018 were analyzed. We focused on a psychological assessment using validated questionnaires (visceral sensitivity index; VSI, hospital anxiety and depression score; HADS) as well as multichannel intraluminal impedance (MII) and pH-metry data from the diagnostic work-up.
We found a decreased VSI of 57.8 ± 15.4 points (pts) among RH patients (n = 45) indicating higher visceral sensitivity compared to 85.7 ± 2.0 pts in the control group (n = 31, P < 0.001). Furthermore, a significant difference in VSI was found between the FH (60.8 ± 23.3 pts, n = 59, P < 0.001) and between the NERD (61.9 ± 20.8 pts, n = 67, P < 0.001) both compared to the control group. The HADS also displayed a significant difference between the RH (11.9 ± 6.0 pts, P < 0.001), FH (11.0 ± 7.4 pts, P < 0.001), respectively, NERD (11.3 ± 8.9 pts, P < 0.001) as compared to the control group (2.0 ± 1.4 pts).
Increased sensation to visceral stimuli as well as anxiety and depression appears to play an important role not only in reflux hypersensitivity and functional heartburn as defined by Rome IV but also in NERD. These findings are in line with the disease concept of disorders of gut-brain interaction in which psychological comorbidities and visceral hypersensitivity play a major role.

© 2021 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.