Some patients with achalasia have been reported to develop airway obstruction from a massively air-distended esophagus, which may represent an abnormality in the upper esophageal sphincter belch reflex. When questioned carefully, 95% of our achalasia patients reported difficulty with belching. The upper esophageal belch reflex in 23 consecutive achalasia patients and 12 healthy controls was studied using an upper esophageal sphincter sleeve manometry catheter and rapid injection of 20-50 mL of air into the midesophagus. Compared with normal subjects, achalasia patients were significantly less likely to have an esophageal belch for all volumes tested and were more likely to have an increase rather than a decrease in upper esophageal sphincter pressure in response to air injection. This study systematically documents that many achalasia patients have an alteration in the upper esophageal sphincter belch reflex that may be a contributory mechanism for some of the chest and upper airway symptoms reported by some patients during acute esophageal distension.