Lungs Live Longer Without Heartburn

Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis patients live longer with gerd treatment

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Sometimes, treating one disease can help patients deal with another. This seems to be the case for patients with a certain lung disease who are also being treated for acid reflux disease.

Patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) - the scarring or thickening of the lungs - who are being treated for acid reflux disease live longer than IPF patients who do not get treatment for acid reflux.

"Get treated for acid reflux disease if you have pulmonary fibrosis."

Even though more research needs to be done, these findings suggest that there is a link between acid reflux, microaspiration (when stomach acids enter the airways), and IPF, says Joyce Lee, M.D., from the University of California, San Francisco and lead researcher of the study.

IPF is a lung disease that has no cure. In IPF, the lung tissue becomes scarred or stiff, eventually making it impossible for the lungs to get enough oxygen to the rest of the body. People who are diagnosed with IPF usually are given only a few years to live.

Some past research has suggested that treatments for acid reflux can keep IPF under control. However, the results from Dr. Lee's research take it one step further:

  • acid reflux treatments not only improve IPF, but also
  • may lengthen how much time a patient has left to live.

According to Dr. Lee, lung specialists disagree about how aggressively acid reflux should be treated in patients with IPF. Some lung specialists believe that the risks of both surgical and medical acid reflux treatment outweigh the benefits.

The study by Dr. Lee and colleagues supports the other side of the debate. The researchers found that treating acid reflux (which lowers the acidity of stomach contents) can reduce the damage caused by microaspiration. In other words, treating acid reflux keeps harmful acids out of the airways, protecting the lungs from further damage.

Dr. Lee and colleagues came to these results by studying 204 patients with IPF. About half of these patients said that they were being treated with medications for acid reflux disease at the time they were diagnosed with IPF. Eleven of the patients said that had gone through surgery to treat acid reflux.

The findings are published online in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Dr. Lee says that more research is needed to confirm the links between acid reflux medication and survival time of IPF patients. If this study's results are confirmed, she continues, then future studies should look beyond these links and try to find ways that acid reflux treatment might improve the survival time of IPF patients.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 19, 2011
Last Updated:
August 4, 2011