Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation decreases lower esophageal sphincter pressure in patients with achalasia

Dig Dis Sci. 1991 Aug;36(8):1029-33. doi: 10.1007/BF01297442.


Vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) is believed to be an inhibitory neurotransmitter responsible for lower esophageal sphincter (LES) relaxation. In patients with achalasia the concentration of VIP and the number of VIP-containing nerve fibers are reduced or absent. It has been suggested that the response to low-frequency transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) may be mediated by a nonadrenergic noncholinergic pathway in which the release of VIP is responsible for the smooth muscle relaxation. The present study was designed to evaluate the effect of TENS on LES pressure and on VIP plasma concentrations in six patients with achalasia (five female, one male). TENS was performed daily during one week for 45-min sessions with a pocket stimulator that delivered low-frequency pulses (6.5 Hz), at 10 pulses/sec of 0.1-msec duration at intensities of 10-20 mA until rhythmic flexion of the fingers was obtained without producing pain. LES pressure and VIP levels were obtained before TENS, after the first 45-min session, and after a week of daily stimulation. After 45-min, TENS produced a significant reduction (P less than 0.01) in LES resting pressure from the mean value 56 +/- 6.4 mm Hg to 42.3 +/- 6.4 mm Hg; with LES relaxation improvement from 50.6 +/- 3% to 63.1 +/- 3.2% (P less than 0.01). After one week of daily TENS, an additional reduction in LES resting pressure (40.3 +/- 4 mm Hg) was observed (P less than 0.01).(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Esophageal Achalasia / blood
  • Esophageal Achalasia / physiopathology
  • Esophageal Achalasia / therapy*
  • Esophagogastric Junction / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Manometry
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology
  • Muscle, Smooth / physiopathology
  • Pressure
  • Transcutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation*
  • Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide / blood*


  • Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide