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OBJECTIVE: To define the earliest age at which histological changes can be used to diagnose oesophagitis and to determine the relationships between clinical, endoscopic and histological features of oesophagitis in infants. METHODOLOGY: The case records and biopsies of 113 infants aged 2-18 months with clinically significant gastro-oesophageal reflux (GOR), undergoing oesophagoscopy between 1978 and 1994 were retrospectively reviewed. The biopsies were independently evaluated and graded by two pathologists. RESULTS: Forty-five cases (40%) had histological oesophagitis but only 16 (14%) had abnormal endoscopic findings (excluding erythema). Endoscopy was found to be highly specific (93%) for histological oesophagitis but lacked sensitivity (25%). Irritability was inversely related to the presence of endoscopic abnormalities, and there was poor correlation between symptoms and histological changes with only haematemesis showing a statistically significant association with histological abnormalities (P = 0.033). Intraepithelial lymphocytes were the earliest of the histological features noted and were present before 4 months of age. The numbers of intraepithelial eosinophils and lymphocytes and the presence of papillary elongation all increased with age. CONCLUSIONS: The presence of oesophagitis is difficult to predict on the basis of symptoms. The presence of intraepithelial lymphocytes is the earliest histological change to be seen in infants with GOR, and can develop before 4 months of age. Oesophagoscopy without biopsy is unreliable in the diagnosis of oesophagitis in infants.


Journal article


J Paediatr Child Health

Publication Date





388 - 393


Endoscopy, Esophagitis, Female, Gastroesophageal Reflux, Humans, Infant, Male, Predictive Value of Tests, Retrospective Studies, Severity of Illness Index