AIMS--To study the oesophageal histological changes in long term users of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) compared with patients not receiving these drugs. METHODS--Ninety eight patients were studied, 53 of whom had taken NSAIDs for three years; 45 had not. Oesophageal biopsy specimens were taken from healthy-looking mucosa in the lower third of oesophagus. The papillary length, the thickness of the basal cell layer, and the intensity of cells infiltrating the epithelium were all assessed blind. RESULTS--The NSAID group included four (7%) cases of papillary elongation and two (4%) cases of basal cell hyperplasia, compared with 13 (29%; p < 0.01) and eight (18%; p < 0.02), respectively, in patients not taking NSAIDs. The total histological scores were also lower in patients treated with NSAIDs. CONCLUSION--Long term NSAID users have fewer oesophageal histological abnormalities than patients not receiving NSAIDs. Macroscopic damage related to NSAID use is, therefore, unlikely to require pre-existing histological oesophagitis for its development.
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