Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is the most common cause of noncardiac chest pain (NCCP) and is present in up to 60% of patients with NCCP in Western countries. In Korea, after a reasonable cardiac evaluation, GERD is reported to underlie 41% of NCCP cases. Typical reflux symptoms are frequent in Korean patients suffering from NCCP. Therefore, a careful history of the predominant symptoms, including heartburn and acid regurgitation, is relatively indicative of the GERD diagnosis in Korea. In Korea, in contrast to Western countries, patients aged 40 years and over who have been diagnosed with NCCP but who are without alarming features should undergo endoscopy to exclude gastric cancer or peptic ulcers because of the higher prevalence of peptic ulcer disease and gastric cancers in the region. In a primary care setting, in the absence of any alarming symptoms, a symptomatic response to a trial of a proton pump inhibitor (PPI) is sufficient for the presumptive diagnosis of GERD. In addition, the optimal duration of a PPI test may be at least 2 weeks, as GERD symptoms tend to be less frequent or atypical in Korean patients than in patients from Western countries. In patients diagnosed with GERD-related NCCP, long-term therapy (more than 2 months) with double the standard dose of a PPI is required to alleviate symptoms. Esophageal dysmotility is relatively uncommon, and pain modulators seem to offer significant improvement of chest pain control in non-GERD-related NCCP. Most traditionally available tricyclics or heterocyclics have many undesirable effects. Therefore, newer drugs with fewer side effects (for example, the serotonin - norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors) may be needed.
Keywords: Noncardiac chest pain, Gastroesophageal reflux disease, Upper endoscopy, Proton pump inhibitor, Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor