Secondary peristalsis contributes to oesophageal acid clearance. The aim of the study was to evaluate the integrity and characteristics of secondary peristalsis in patients with gastro-oesophageal reflux disease. Studies were performed in 22 patients with reflux disease and 20 age matched controls. Oesophageal motility was recorded at 3 cm intervals along the oesophageal body. Primary peristalsis was tested with 5 ml water swallows. Secondary peristalsis was stimulated with 10 ml boluses of air and water injected in the mid-oesophagus and by 5 second distensions with a 3 cm balloon at the same level. It was found that primary peristalsis was normal in 19 of 20 control subjects and in 14 of 22 patients with reflux disease. In patients with reflux disease, intact secondary peristalsis was triggered infrequently by air and water distension (median success rate of 0% for both stimuli) and occurred significantly less frequently than in control subjects (50% and 30% respectively). The frequency of balloon induced secondary peristalsis, however, was similar in the two groups (0% controls, 20% reflux disease). The major pattern of failure of secondary peristalsis was the complete absence of any oesophageal secondary peristaltic response. The amplitudes of the intact secondary peristaltic responses were not significantly different for the two groups. Peristaltic velocity for air and balloon induced secondary peristalsis was also similar in control subjects and patients with reflux disease whereas water induced secondary peristalsis was slower in the reflux patients. In conclusion, patients with reflux disease exhibit a pronounced defect in the triggering of secondary peristalsis.
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