Patients with isolated laryngopharyngeal reflux are not obese

Stacey L. Halum, Gregory N. Postma, Crawford Johnston, Peter C. Belafsky, Jamie A. Koufman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Objectives: The gastroenterology literature suggests that gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is often associated with obesity. The National Institutes of Health uses body mass index (BMI) to identify patients who are overweight (BMI 25-30) or obese (BMI > 30). The aim of this study was to determine whether there is a relationship between laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR) and elevated BMI. Study Design: The study involved a retrospective review of 500 pH-probe studies performed consecutively within the department. Methods: Studies performed on antireflux medication or after fundoplication were excluded. From the included study reports, age, sex, height, weight, use of tobacco or alcohol, and pharyngeal and esophageal probe findings were recorded. After controlling for other factors, the relationship between LPR and BMI was determined and statistical analysis performed. Results: Two hundred and eighty-five of the 500 pH studies met inclusion criteria. The overall mean BMI was 27.9 ± 6.42. The mean BMI for patients with normal studies was 25.6 ± 5.07, for those with isolated LPR 25.9 ± 6.44, for those with isolated GERD 28.3 ± 6.81, and for those with globally abnormal studies (LPR and GERD) 28.8 ± 6.55. Abnormal pharyngeal reflux did not correlate with increasing BMI; however, abnormal esophageal reflux events correlated with increasing BMI (P = .002). The mean number of pharyngeal reflux events was not elevated in obese patients, whereas the mean number of esophageal reflux events was significantly elevated in obese (P = .02) when compared with nonobese patients. Conclusion: This study demonstrates that pharyngeal reflux is not associated with increasing BMI or obesity in LPR patients. In contrast, abnormal esophageal reflux (GERD) is associated with increasing BMI and obesity. Because of the LPR patient selection bias of this study, these findings may not be applicable to the GERD populations routinely seen by gastroenterologists.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1042-1045
Number of pages4
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Body mass index
  • Obesity
  • Reflux
  • pH probe testing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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