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Scintigraphic assessment of oesophageal motility: what does it show and how reliable is it?


Computer analysed transit of a liquid bolus containing Tc99m (RT) was compared with manometry for the detection of oesophageal motility disorders in 151 patients with a variety of oesophageal symptoms. Manometry was abnormal in 99 of whom 44 had abnormal RT (sensitivity 44%); it was normal in 52 of whom 37 had normal RT (specificity 71%). The commonest manometric abnormalities were non-specific motility disorders characterised by abnormalities of peristaltic amplitude, waveform or baseline. Radionuclide transit was abnormal in only 32/77 (42%) of these. Achalasia, which is characterised by complete aperistalsis, was the least common diagnosis, but all five cases had abnormal RT. Simultaneous manometry and RT in 30 patients showed that the transit of a liquid bolus through the oesophagus is determined by the propagation rather than the form of the peristaltic contraction. Because non-specific motility disorders are common in clinical practice, RT is not a useful screening test for oesophageal dysmotility.

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