Recent comprehensive guidelines developed by the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition define the common entities of gastroesophageal reflux (GER) as the physiologic passage of gastric contents into the esophagus and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) as reflux associated with troublesome symptoms or complications. The ability to distinguish between GER and GERD is increasingly important to implement best practices in the management of acid reflux in patients across all pediatric age groups, as children with GERD may benefit from further evaluation and treatment, whereas conservative recommendations are the only indicated therapy in those with uncomplicated physiologic reflux. This clinical report endorses the rigorously developed, well-referenced North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition guidelines and likewise emphasizes important concepts for the general pediatrician. A key issue is distinguishing between clinical manifestations of GER and GERD in term infants, children, and adolescents to identify patients who can be managed with conservative treatment by the pediatrician and to refer patients who require consultation with the gastroenterologist. Accordingly, the evidence basis presented by the guidelines for diagnostic approaches as well as treatments is discussed. Lifestyle changes are emphasized as first-line therapy in both GER and GERD, whereas medications are explicitly indicated only for patients with GERD. Surgical therapies are reserved for children with intractable symptoms or who are at risk for life-threatening complications of GERD. Recent black box warnings from the US Food and Drug Administration are discussed, and caution is underlined when using promoters of gastric emptying and motility. Finally, attention is paid to increasing evidence of inappropriate prescriptions for proton pump inhibitors in the pediatric population.
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