Prevalence of Dyspepsia, Heartburn, and Peptic Ulcer Disease in Veterans

Dominitz, Jason A.; Provenzale, Dawn
August 1999
American Journal of Gastroenterology;Aug1999, Vol. 94 Issue 8, p2086
Academic Journal
OBJECTIVE: Medications used to treat gastrointestinal symptoms account for a substantial share of pharmacy expenses for veterans affairs medical centers. Prior studies have shown that the prevalence of peptic ulcer disease is higher in veterans than in nonveterans. Our aim was to determine the prevalence of upper gastrointestinal symptoms among patients seeking health care in the Department of Veterans Affairs outpatient clinics. METHODS: A total of 1582 veterans completed a previously validated bowel symptom questionnaire in the following clinics: gastroenterology (n = 693). walk-in (n = 403), general medicine (n = 379), and women's health (n = 107). RESULTS: Overall response was 78%. Dyspepsia was reported in 30%, 37%. 44%, and 53% of patients in general medicine, walk-in, women's health, and gastroenterology clinics, respectively. Heartburn, at least weekly, was reported in 21%, 21%, 28%, and 40% of patients in general medicine, walk-in, women's health, and gastroenterology clinics, respectively. Prior peptic ulcer disease (PUD) was reported in 29%, 26%, 22%, and 44% of patients in general medicine, walk-in, women's health, and gastroenterology clinics, respectively. Dyspepsia, heartburn, and PUD were significantly associated with increased physician visits and lower general health. CONCLUSIONS: Dyspepsia and heartburn are common symptoms among veterans. Lifetime prevalence of PUD is high among veterans. Gastrointestinal symptoms have a significant impact on health care utilization and general health. These prevalence estimates provide a basis for studies of resource utilization and for cost-effectiveness analyses of the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders in the veteran population. Moreover, the high prevalence of symptoms helps to explain the high utilization of gastrointestinal medications.


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