Mechanical studies of the esophageal function.
The discussion centers on the use of mechanical principles, mathematical modeling, and concurrent manometric and videofluoroscopic data to study the esophageal function. Basic principles of mechanics indicate that intrabolus pressure must be distinguished from the direct contractile squeeze of the circular muscle on the manometric assembly. Because these two regions are mechanically distinct, pressure amplitude is not a proper indicator of the forces characterizing esophageal bolus transport. In the application of computer simulations to the transport of a fluid bolus through the aortic arch regions, it was discovered that separate contraction waves must exist in the upper and lower esophageal segments when bolus retention occurs. Through detailed analysis of enhanced concurrent manometric and videofluoroscopic data in human volunteers, we have found that a dual-wave characteristic across the transition zone is a normal reflection of the change in muscle types, each muscle type producing a separate contraction wave. In normal transport, these two contraction waves are properly coordinated spatially and temporally. However, during bolus retention, a mismatch in space and time between these two waves takes place. Analysis suggests that this mismatch is neurological rather than histological in origin, and occurs primarily within the lower smooth-muscle segment.