Researchers from Taipei, Taiwan, have published a groundbreaking study that suggests patients with appendicitis have a higher prevalence of prior gastroesophageal reflux disease, also known as GERD. This 2016 study, titled “Association between Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease and Appendicitis: A Population-Based Case-Control Study,” offers multiple opportunities for doctors to diagnose and assess patients who suffer from GERD and who may have undiagnosed appendicitis.
This study is population-based, meaning that the researchers did not go out into the field and interact with appendicitis patients directly. Instead, they pulled data from the 2005 Taiwan Longitudinal Health Insurance Database (TLHID2005). By examining this data, researchers were able to assess the insurance claims of 1 million randomly selected Taiwanese individuals. The THLID2005 randomly selects these individuals from Taiwan’s beneficiary database of over 25 million people.
The study examined 7,113 adults diagnosed with appendicitis by Taiwanese hospitals. Then, the researchers cross-checked this with a list of patients with a GERD diagnosis. To qualify for the study, patients had to have received one GERD diagnosis before their appendicitis and one GERD diagnosis made by a certified gastroenterologist.
After identifying patients with GERD and appendicitis through TLHID2005, researchers made a surprising discovery. Of the 7,113 patients hospitalized for appendicitis, 1,087 of them had received a GERD diagnosis prior to their appendicitis episode. This is a total of 3.06% of total sampled patients.
Researchers found GERD in 359 appendicitis cases, or 5.05%. The odds ratio for prior GERD in appendicitis cases was 2.04, compared to 1.00 for the control group. The ratio was higher for patients between the ages of 40 to 59, at 2.36. In short, patients with appendicitis are 2.05 times more likely to receive a GERD diagnosis than patients without appendicitis.
What Doctors Need to Know
This data suggests a strong link between GERD and appendicitis. GERD may trigger appendicitis episodes and these two diseases might share similar pathways to making people sick. The patient’s diet, nervous system imbalance, or bacterial infections may trigger appendicitis in those with prior GERD.
The simplified conclusion: it is important for doctors to consider an appendicitis diagnosis when a GERD patient presents with abdominal pain. Undiagnosed appendicitis can be deadly, and time is of the essence during these patient consultations. While more research will help clarify and strengthen this conclusion, it is reasonable that in light of this study, doctors should be encouraged to take extra care in diagnosis considerations with GERD patients.
Surgeon Dr. Preeti Malladi specializes in GERD treatment through innovative, minimally invasive procedures such as the LINX® system. Contact Dr. Malladi’s Dallas or Plano office for a consultation by calling (214) 242-9737.