Prevention of esophagopharyngeal reflux by augmenting the upper esophageal sphincter pressure barrier

Laryngoscope. 2014 Oct;124(10):2268-74. doi: 10.1002/lary.24735. Epub 2014 Jun 27.


Objectives/hypothesis: Incompetence of the upper esophageal sphincter (UES) is fundamental to the occurrence of esophagopharyngeal reflux (EPR), and development of supraesophageal manifestations of reflux disease (SERD). However, therapeutic approaches to SERD have not been directed to strengthening of the UES barrier function. Our aims were to demonstrate that EPR events can be experimentally induced in SERD patients and not in healthy controls, and ascertain if these events can be prevented by application of a modest external cricoid pressure.

Study design: Individual case control study.

Methods: We studied 14 SERD patients (57 ± 13 years, 8 females) and 12 healthy controls (26 ± 3 years, 7 females) by concurrent intraesophageal slow infusion and pharyngoscopic and manometric technique without and with the application of a sustained predetermined cricoid pressure to induce, detect, and prevent EPR, respectively.

Results: Slow esophageal infusion (1 mL/s) of 60 mL of HCl resulted in a total of 16 objectively confirmed EPR events in none patients and none in healthy controls. All patients developed subjective sensation of regurgitation. Sustained cricoid pressure resulted in a significant UES pressure augmentation in all participants. During application of sustained cricoid pressure, slow intraesophageal infusion resulted in only one EPR event (P < .01).

Conclusions: Slow esophageal liquid infusion unmasks UES incompetence evidenced as the occurrence of EPR. Application of 20 to 30 mm Hg cricoid pressure significantly increases the UES intraluminal pressure and prevents pharyngeal reflux induced by esophageal slow liquid infusion. These techniques can be useful in diagnosis and management of UES incompetence in patients suffering from supraesophageal manifestations of reflux disease.

Keywords: Regurgitation; cricoid pressure; extraesophageal reflux disease; gastroesophageal reflux disease; laryngopharyngeal reflux; supraesophageal reflux disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Dilatation / methods*
  • Esophageal Sphincter, Upper / physiopathology*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / diagnosis
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / physiopathology
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Laryngoscopy / methods*
  • Male
  • Manometry
  • Middle Aged
  • Pressure
  • Treatment Outcome