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Drug-induced lesions of the oesophageal mucosa

FEATURED REVIEW Drugs provoke oesophageal lesions through a variety of mechanisms. Which drugs expose patients to the risk of oesophageal mucosal lesions?
Full review (4 pages) available for download by subscribers.

Key Points

  • Lesions of the oesophageal mucosa are observed in various situations: most often with gastro-oesophageal reflux disease, but also with infections, cancer, contact with a toxic substance, etc.
  • When they are symptomatic, these lesions provoke burning sensations, dysphagia, regurgitation and sometimes dorsal pain. The changes to the oesophageal mucosa may take various forms: inflammation, erosion, ulceration or necrosis. Serious or even fatal complications can develop but are rare; they include oesophageal perforation, stricture and haemorrhage.
  • Some oral drugs damage the oesophageal mucosa through direct contact. The symptoms often develop several hours after ingestion. The pain is of sudden onset. The resulting lesions are solitary or multiple ulcers that vary in depth and usually occur in the upper portion of the oesophagus.
  • Various factors prolong contact between a drug and the oesophageal mucosa, in particular: swallowing the drug with insufficient liquid or just before lying down; capsule forms; and oesophageal abnormalities. The drugs most frequently implicated are tetracyclines, particularly doxycycline, bisphosphonates and various nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
  • Many drugs, used in various situations, provoke gastro-oesophageal reflux disease, sometimes causing mucosal lesions in the lower oesophagus: calcium-channel blockers, nitrates, exenatide and liraglutide, drugs with antimuscarinic effects, theophylline, etc.
  • Some drugs affect all mucous membranes in the body, including the oesophageal mucosa, irrespective of their route of administration: cancer drugs, isotretinoin, and nicorandil.

©Prescrire 1 September 2015

"Drug-induced lesions of the oesophageal mucosa" Prescrire Int 2015; 24 (163): 210-213. (Pdf, subscribers only)

Download the full review.
Pdf, subscribers only