Oesophageal tone in patients with achalasia

M. González, F. Mearin, C. Vasconez, J. R. Armengol, J. R. Malagelada

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31 Citations (Scopus)


Background - The diagnosis and classification of oesophageal motility disorders is currently based on assessment of the phasic contractile activity of the oesophagus. Tonic muscular contraction of the oesophageal body (oesophageal tone) has not been well characterised. Aim - To quantify oesophageal tonic activity in healthy subjects and in patients with achalasia. Patients - Oesophageal tone was measured in 14 patients with untreated achalasia and in 14 healthy subjects. In eight patients with achalasia, oesophageal tone was again measured one month after either endoscopic or surgical treatment. Methods - Tonic wall activity was quantified by means of a flaccid intraoesophageal bag, 5 cm long and of 120 ml maximal capacity, which was placed and maintained 5 cm above the lower oesophageal sphincter and connected to an external electronic barostat. The experimental design included measurement of oesophageal basal tone and compliance as well as the oesophageal tone response to a nitric oxide donor (0.5 ml amyl nitrite inhalation). Results - Oesophageal basal tone, expressed as the intrabag (intraoesophageal) volume at a minimal distending pressure (2 mm Hg), did not differ significantly between patients with achalasia and healthy controls (6.6 (2.5) ml versus 4.1 (0.8) ml, respectively). Oesophageal compliance-(volume/pressure relation during intraoesophageal distension) was significantly increased in achalasia (oesophageal extension ratio: 3.2 (0.4) ml/mm Hg versus 1.9 (0.2) ml/mm Hg; p< 0.01). Amyl nitrite inhalation induced oesophageal relaxation both in patients and in controls, but the magnitude of relaxation was greater in the latter (intrabag volume increase: 15.3 (2.4) ml versus 36.2 (7.1) ml; p<0.01). Conclusion - In patients with achalasia, oesophageal tonic activity, and not only phasic activity, is impaired. Although oesophageal compliance is increased, residual oesophageal tone is maintained so that a significant relaxant response may occur after pharmacological stimulation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)291-296
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1997


  • Achalasia
  • Amyl nitrite
  • NO donor
  • Oesophageal barostat
  • Oesophageal tonic activity


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