Background Low-dose aspirin is known to cause upper gastrointestinal complications. The mechanism by which the aspirin disrupts gastric mucosal integrity remains to be clarified. In this study we investigated the temporal association of gastric secretory parameters (acid and mucus) with aspirin-induced gastropathy. Methods In 42 long-term low-dose aspirin-takers and the same number of sex- and age-matched controls, pentagastrin-stimulated gastric juice was collected for 10 min during endoscopic examination. The collected gastric juice was divided and half was submitted to analysis for gastric acid (mEq/10 min) and the other half was analyzed for mucin (mg hexose/10 min) output. The grade of gastric mucosal injury was assessed endoscopically according to the modified Lanza score, and a score of more than 4 was defined as the presence of severe gastropathy. Results While gastric acid secretion did not differ significantly between aspirin-takers and controls, gastric mucus secretion, in terms of mucin output, was significantly increased in aspirin-takers compared to controls (4.1 (SD 4.8) vs. 2.3 (1.4) mg hexose/10 min, P < 0.05). Consequently, the acid/mucin ratio was significantly decreased in aspirin-takers compared to controls (1.2 (1.0) vs. 1.7 (1.4), P < 0.05). In the subanalysis of 25 aspirintakers without severe gastropathy, gastric mucus secretion was increased and the acid/mucus ratio was decreased compared with controls, but there was no such association in the remaining 17 aspirin-takers with severe gastropathy. Conclusion Overall, gastric mucus secretion is increased in aspirin-takers, suggesting a functional adaptive response to long-term administration of the drug. However, it is possible that the adaptive response is impaired in some aspirin takers, who might be susceptible to severe upper gastrointestinal complication.
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