Objectives: The symptoms and mucosal damage that occur in gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) may be a consequence of either an increased frequency of reflux events or of a prolonged process of esophageal acid clearance. Acid clearance is dependent both upon effective esophageal emptying of luminal fluid and on normal salivary function to titrate residual acid to neutrality. This investigation examined the efficacy of esophageal emptying in a large group of GERD patients.
Methods: Barium swallow examinations were done to categorize and quantify esophageal emptying dysfunction in 67 consecutive patients with reflux disease, compared with 85 patient asymptomatic controls. Quantitative fluoroscopic estimates of esophageal residua were compared with scintigraphic quantification in 14 controls and 20 GERD patients.
Results: There was progressive impairment of esophageal emptying in the reflux patients without esophagitis compared with the controls, and it was even greater in patients with endoscopically evident esophagitis compared with reflux patients without esophagitis. Good correlation existed between the fluoroscopic and scintigraphic assessment of esophageal emptying.
Conclusions: These findings support the hypothesis that impaired esophageal emptying is an important determinant in the development of esophagitis among reflux patients. The dominant site of impaired emptying in the reflux patients was the phrenic ampulla as opposed to the tubular esophagus, suggesting a pathophysiological contribution of hiatus hernia.