Dysphagia is a frequent cause of referral for oesophageal manometry although the motor response to eating is not routinely studied. We examined symptoms and oesophageal motor patterns in response to eating bread in 30 patients with either gastro-oesophageal reflux (n = 20), or normal oesophageal function tests (n = 10). No patient experienced symptoms while swallowing water but one complained of heartburn and one developed symptomatic oesophageal 'spasm' during eating. In eight further patients, pain or dysphagia which occurred with swallowing bread was associated with aperistalsis. Comparing asymptomatic and symptomatic periods, there was a slight increase in mean swallow frequency from 7.5 (0.79) (SEM) to 9.0 (1.17) swallows per minute (NS; n = 10). The mean number of aperistalsis swallows increased from 4.5 (0.96) per minute to 6.2 (1.30) (p less than 0.01; n = 10). Aperistalsis during symptoms was mainly caused by non-conducted swallows rather than synchronous contractions (mean 5.8 (1.45) per minute compared with 1.2 (0.44]. Aperistalsis can be produced by rapid swallowing in the normal oesophagus through 'deglutitive inhibition'. These results suggest that some patients experience dysphagia associated with aperistalsis perhaps as a response to increased frequency of swallowing. Functional abnormalities of this nature will not be detected by conventional oesophageal manometry.
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