- Propulsion of a bolus through the upper esophageal sphincter (UES) is driven by a pressure drop in the direction of flow against frictional resisting force. Basic mechanics suggest that the axial rate of drop in intrabolus pressure (IBP), i.e., the intrabolus pressure gradient (IBPG), should be locally sensitive to abnormal constriction. We sought to quantify space-time patterns of IBP and IBPG that correlate with pathological disruption to transsphincteric bolus transport. High-resolution high-fidelity perfused manometry was applied concurrent with videofluoroscopy in 6 healthy controls and 10 patients with restricted UES opening and 4 bolus volumes. Pressures were interpolated spatially and displayed as space-time isocontours with bolus head and tail trajectories superimposed to identify the IBP domain. IBP and IBPG were averaged over an approximately steady period of transsphincteric flow. The axial location and magnitude of maximum IBPG were quantified for each swallow relative to the location of the abnormal restriction. We found that average hypopharyngeal IBP and locally maximal IBPG were significantly higher in the patient group (P < 0.001), whereas the maximum IBPG was insensitive to bolus volume, and the locations of maximum IBPG in the patient group were well correlated with axial locations of maximal UES constriction (r = 0.84, P < 0.01). Space-time structure of IBP and IBPG correlated qualitatively with swallow dysfunction. Because IBPG reflects pressure force driving the bolus against frictional force in the UES, IBPG reflects local changes in frictional resistance from pathological constriction during bolus flow. Consequently, the location and magnitude of IBPG reflect the existence and location of abnormal constriction, and IBP and IBPG structure reflect decompensation of the pharyngeal swallow.