July 11, 2013

What Reflux Meds are Best in Infants and Children?

Once a decision is made to start medications beyond the conservative ways of dealing with reflux, the most common reflux medications used to treat adults are also used to treat reflux in infants and children. They are the same exact medications, albeit at lower dosages.

Although the effectiveness of such drugs are clear in adults suffering from acid reflux, it is less so in children. As is true with so much of medicine, there's no clear answer to the question of what the best reflux med is for infants and children. According to one review of literature, the answer is decidedly mixed and variable depending on what outcome was looked at (subjective symptom improvement or objective test findings).

In fact, symptom improvement (or lack of) did not always correlate with objective test findings (24 hour testing, barium swallow, EGD, etc) of reflux improvement and vice-versa. The most common finding was reduction in reflux based on tests, but no significant improvement in symptoms. Such findings does bring into question whether the diagnosis of reflux was even accurate.

In any case, when looking at SYMPTOMS in infants (less than 12 years of age) use of proton pump inhibitors was decidedly not favorable (one study in support and 4 against). In children (over 1 year of age), proton pump inhibitors were found to be equally effective to alginates and ranitidine.

When looking at OBJECTIVE test findings, proton pump inhibitors were found to be equally effective in both infants and children compared with placebo, alginates, or ranitidine. For reducing histologic aberrations, proton pump inhibitors showed no difference compared with ranitidine or alginates.

If GERD symptom control is the main goal, proton pump inhibitors should not be used in infants. In older children, these medications are helpful but potentially no better than alginates and zantac which have better side effect profiles. As is true with most studies, more study is needed.

Efficacy of proton-pump inhibitors in children with gastroesophageal reflux disease: a systematic review. Pediatrics. 2011 May;127(5):925-35. doi: 10.1542/peds.2010-2719. Epub 2011 Apr 4.

Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids.

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