Reduced chemoreceptor sensitivity in patients with Barrett's esophagus may be related to age and not to the presence of Barrett's epithelium

Am J Gastroenterol. 1997 Nov;92(11):2040-3.


Background: Patients with Barrett's esophagus have demonstrated reduced chemo- and mechanoreceptor sensitivity to acid infusion and balloon distension, respectively. However, Barrett's esophagus is mainly a disease of the elderly, making age the possible underlying mechanism for altered pain perception in this patient population.

Objectives: To determine perception thresholds to acid infusion in elderly (>65 yr) versus younger (< or =50 yr) patients with Barrett's esophagus.

Methods: Twelve elderly and 10 younger patients, matched by length of Barrett's mucosa, were recruited into the study. All patients participated in our Barrett's esophagus surveillance program. The patients were treated with omeprazole 20 to 60 mg/day and were symptom free. Chemosensitivity was determined by a modified acid perfusion test, in which acid perception thresholds were quantified by the lag time to initial typical symptom perception, sensory intensity rating, and an acid perfusion sensory score.

Results: Five of the elderly patients with Barrett's esophagus had a negative test, whereas all younger patients with Barrett's esophagus experienced typical symptom perception during acid infusion. Elderly patients with Barrett's esophagus had significantly longer lag time to initial perception, lower acid perfusion sensory score, and sensory intensity rating in comparison with the younger patients.

Conclusions: Reduced chemoreceptor sensitivity to acid perfusion that has previously been demonstrated in patients with Barrett's esophagus may be related to age and not to the presence of Barrett's epithelium.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / drug effects*
  • Barrett Esophagus / diagnosis*
  • Chemoreceptor Cells / drug effects*
  • Epithelium / drug effects
  • Esophagus / drug effects
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Hydrochloric Acid
  • Male
  • Manometry
  • Middle Aged
  • Sensory Thresholds / drug effects


  • Hydrochloric Acid