Previous studies examining oesophageal acid clearance have employed a variety of techniques to induce or simulate acid reflux. Clearance abnormalities have been deduced from abnormal standard motility studies, barium radiology or from 24-h pH recordings. In this study a 24-h pH and oesophageal motility recording system was used to study naturally occurring acid reflux episodes in control subjects and in two groups of patients with severe acid reflux disease (erosive oesophagitis and oesophageal stricture). Acid clearance was compared between the subject groups. Patients with oesophageal stricture were found to have poor oesophageal peristaltic ability and particularly poor oesophageal acid clearance. Those with erosive oesophagitis had normal peristaltic swallowing but abnormal acid clearance. This study has characterized, for the first time, the abnormalities in acid clearance during naturally occurring acid reflux episodes in patients with severe reflux disease. A more complete understanding of these clearance abnormalities could influence future medical and surgical strategies in the management of severe gastro-oesophageal reflux disease.