Gut 59:433-440 doi:10.1136/gut.2009.202606
  • Oesophagus

Oesophageal shortening: in vivo validation of high-frequency ultrasound measurements of oesophageal muscle wall thickness

  1. Daniel Sifrim1,2
  1. 1Center for Gastroenterological Research, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium
  2. 2Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Daniel Sifrim, The Wingate Institute of Neurogastroenterology, 26 Ashfield Street, London E1 2AJ, UK; d.sifrim{at}
  • Revised 21 December 2009
  • Accepted 22 December 2009


Background and aims Assessment of oesophageal muscle wall thickness with high-frequency intraluminal ultrasound (HFIUS) is proposed as a method to evaluate longitudinal muscle contraction and oesophageal shortening in patients with oesophageal symptoms. Studies using this technique suggested that prolonged oesophageal wall thickening can be associated with chest pain and heartburn. Validation studies comparing HFIUS measurements against fluoroscopic investigations of oesophageal shortening are not available. The aim of this study was to evaluate the relationship between oesophageal muscle wall thickening and oesophageal shortening in vivo.

Methods Oesophageal shortening and muscle wall thickness were assessed simultaneously in lightly sedated cats, using fluoroscopic tracking of endoscopically attached metal clips and HFIUS, respectively. Oesophageal shortening was studied during secondary peristalsis and oesophageal mucosal acidification. Video fluoroscopy and HFIUS images were recorded simultaneously and the magnitude and timing of changes in distance between clips and muscle wall thickness were compared.

Results During peristalsis, the distance between the clips was maximally reduced to 33% and the muscle wall thickness was increased to 218% above baseline. Maximal shortening and wall thickening correlated significantly and occurred simultaneously. Likewise, mucosal acidification provoked simultaneous oesophageal shortening (20%) and increased basal muscle wall thickness (40%). Secondary peristalsis during mucosal acidification was associated with strong and prolonged oesophageal shortening.

Conclusions Oesophageal muscle wall thickening, measured with HFIUS is a good predictor of oesophageal shortening and longitudinal muscle contraction during swallowing and oesophageal mucosal acidification.


  • Funding This work is supported by grants from the FWO (Scientific Research Fund, Flanders, Belgium). RF is a postdoctoral fellow of the FWO.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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