Esophageal motility disorders are not uncommon in gastroenterology. The spectrum of these disorders ranges from the well-defined primary esophageal motility disorders (PEMDs) to very nonspecific disorders that may play a more indirect role in reflux disease and otherwise be asymptomatic. Esophageal motility disorders may occur as manifestations of systemic diseases, referred to as secondary motility disorders.

Esophageal motility disorders are less common than mechanical and inflammatory diseases affecting the esophagus, such as reflux esophagitis, peptic strictures, and mucosal rings. The clinical presentation of a motility disorder is varied, but, classically, dysphagia and chest pain are reported. In 80% of patients, the cause of a patient’s dysphagia can be suggested from the history, including dysmotility of the esophagus. Before entertaining a diagnosis of a motility disorder, first and foremost, the physician must evaluate for a mechanical obstructing lesion.

Procedure

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A technician places a catheter into the nose and guides it into the stomach. Once placed, the catheter is slowly withdrawn, allowing it to detect pressure changes and to record information for later review. The patient will be asked at various times to take a deep breath or to take some swallows of water. The degree of discomfort varies among patients. Patients are not sedated because sedatives would alter the functioning of the esophageal muscles. Overall the procedure takes about 45 minutes. After the procedure is complete, patients can usually resume their normal daily activities.