Background & aims: Esophageal acid exposure is a common occurrence in healthy individuals and patients with esophagitis. Clinically, perception of this exposure ranges from no perception to severe heartburn and chest pain. Cerebral cortical response to esophageal mucosal contact to acid has not been systematically studied. The aim of this study was to elucidate cerebral cortical response to esophageal acid exposure in normal individuals by functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI).
Methods: We studied 10 normal healthy volunteers. Cortical FMRI response to 10 minutes of intraesophageal perfusion of 0.1N HCl (1 mL/min) was determined, and the results were compared with those of saline infusion and balloon distention.
Results: Acid perfusion did not induce heartburn or chest pain but increased FMRI signal intensity by 6.7% +/- 2.0% over the preperfusion values. No increase was detected for saline infusion. FMRI signal intensity to balloon distention was similar to that of acid perfusion. Activation latency, activation to peak, and the deactivation periods for response to acid perfusion were significantly longer than those of balloon distention (P < 0.05).
Conclusions: Contact of esophageal mucosa with acid, before inducing heartburn, evokes a cerebral cortical response detectable by FMRI. Temporal characteristics of this response are significantly different from those induced by esophageal balloon distention.