From recitative to reflux – a new study has identified Peptest as a useful tool for diagnosing reflux in opera singers.

Opera singers are at a greater risk of developing reflux disease because of their effort to sing but are reluctant to undergo invasive diagnostic tests for fear of damaging their vocal cords.

According to experts, singing opera involves rapid changes of subglottal pressure with consistent use of the diaphragm – leading to an abrupt and prolonged increase in intra-abdominal pressure, deep inspiration and straining.

Because the diaphragmatic sphincter is disabled by these mechanisms, repeated over many years of professional activity, the occurrence of reflux symptoms is increased.

Previous studies – performed using scores from different questionnaires related to symptoms, such as heartburn, cough, epigastric pain, hoarseness and nausea – have showed that professional opera singers have a statistically significantly higher prevalence of reflux disease symptoms than others.

In a new study carried out with 30 vocal opera students (aged between 19 and 60 from the Music Academy of the city Cluj-Napoca in Romania), participants again completed a symptom questionnaire but also provided saliva samples to be analysed using Peptest.

The analysis found that vocal opera students had a higher prevalence of reflux than the control group (96.67 per cent versus 30 per cent). Interestingly, only 50 per cent of the vocal opera students had reported reflux symptoms.

Researchers say the study demonstrated that ‘non-invasive salivary Peptest could be a useful tool in diagnosing reflux disease’ in opera patients.