Interpretation of intraluminal manometric measurements in terms of swallowing mechanics.
A unified discussion of the mechanics of the swallowing process, and its interpretation through manometric measurements of intraluminal pressure, are presented in this paper. The goals of the discussions are to provide the reader with basic knowledge of pharyngeal, esophageal, and sphincter mechanics; to relate the mechanical processes to intraluminal pressure recordings; and to clarify the relationship between intraluminal pressure and esophageal muscle contractile behavior. The esophageal phase of bolus transport, in particular, is discussed in some detail due to the relatively simple geometry and the straightforward description of peristalsis and muscle mechanics in this region. Several important issues are emphasized in the discussion. For example, pressure variation within a static bolus is fundamentally different from that within a moving bolus. Manometric recordings must be interpreted accordingly. The importance of differentiating between "hydrodynamic pressure," which is pressure measured within a fluid bolus, and "contact pressure," which is the direct squeeze of the luminal wall on the manometric port in a region devoid of bolus fluid, is discussed in some detail. We argue that pressure "amplitude" does not, in principle, give any indication of the forces required to drive the fluid bolus forward. What should be sought is the variation of intrabolus pressure relative to the contact pressure, particularly during periods in which the contractile segment fails to obliterate the esophageal lumen. Examples of intraluminal pressure recording in the esophagus, using manometry and mathematical models, are presented to demonstrate both the possibilities and the difficulties of interpreting manometric recordings in the absence of concurrent radiographic imaging. We discover that in regions of nearly complete luminal closure, the pressure signature and bolus geometry are strongly coupled during peristaltic transport, providing the possibility that in these regions quantitative measures of muscle performance might be developed without the need for radiographic imaging. On the other hand, the ambiguity in the interpretation of manometric recordings that often accompanies dysphagic conditions suggests that as more sophisticated interpretations are sought, manometry concurrent with radiography will play a more prominent role in patient evaluation.