Prolonged esophageal acid clearance, found in some patients with esophagitis, can be attributed in part to the peristaltic dysfunction observed in this population. In this study, we undertook to define the effect of commonly observed peristaltic dysfunction on volume clearance by obtaining concurrent videofluoroscopic and manometric recordings in patients with nonobstructive dysphagia or heartburn. Excellent correlation existed between the findings from the two studies. A single normal peristaltic wave resulted in 100% clearance of a barium bolus from the esophagus. At each recording site, luminal closure, as demonstrated by videofluoroscopy, coincided with the upstroke of the peristaltic pressure complex. Absent or incomplete peristaltic contractions invariably resulted in little or no volume clearance from the involved segment. Regional hypotensive peristalsis was associated with incomplete volume clearance by the mechanism of retrograde escape of barium through the region of hypotensive contraction. The regional peristaltic amplitude required to prevent retrograde escape of barium was greater in the distal compared with the proximal esophagus. The mean peristaltic amplitude associated with instances of retrograde escape was 25 mmHg in the distal esophagus compared with 12 mmHg in the proximal esophageal segments. Thus, the peristaltic dysfunction commonly seen in patients with esophagitis (failed and hypotensive peristalsis) likely leads to impaired volume clearance.