Benefits Of Esophageal Manometry Over Barium Swallow

Swallowing disorders can occur for any number of reasons. Most often neurological and neuromuscular disorders are the cause. Identifying the underlying cause and the specific esophageal dysfunction makes it easier to develop a tailored and effective treatment plan.

Comprehensive Testing

A barium swallow involves the patient swallowing a dye and multiple pictures are taken to view the dye as it makes its way through the esophagus. Although this test can be an excellent way to identify blockages or narrowing because it is less intrusive than an endoscopy, it does very little to tell doctors about any abnormalities regarding peristalsis. Peristalsis is the involuntary movement of muscles in the esophagus that pushes food down the esophagus and into the stomach. If these muscle movements are not sufficient, food can take an extended amount of time to reach the stomach and cause pain. Since there is no blockage or narrowing in the esophagus, it would not show on a barium swallow. Esophageal manometry fixes this issue by measuring peristalsis and the function of the valves at the top and bottom of the esophagus. Several types of swallowing disorders can become apparent with esophageal manometry, such as weak peristalsis, muscle spasms, or dysphagia.

Specific Diagnoses

Dysphagia is a swallowing disorder where people feel like food and/or liquids become stuck in their throat. There are multiple types of dysphagia. Identifying the exact type of dysphagia makes a considerable difference in treatment plans. Esophageal manometry allows doctors to identify where along the esophagus the problem occurs and what specifically is occurring. The location of dysphagia may provide information about its underlying cause.

Oropharyngeal dysphagia occurs at the top of the esophagus when the swallowing process is initiated. This type of dysphagia is more likely to occur from a nervous system disorder or stroke. Furthermore, this type of dysphagia is the most problematic because aspiration of food or liquid easily occurs. Other types of dysphagia include esophageal, esophagogastric, and paraesophageal. Esophageal dysphagia occurs anywhere along the esophagus after the food has been successfully swallowed until it reaches the sphincter to the stomach.

If dysphagia causes difficulty with food passing through the sphincter to the stomach, it is considered esophagogastric dysphagia. Lastly, dysphagia is not always caused by problems within the esophagus itself, but by problems surrounding the esophagus. Scar tissues or masses pressing on the esophagus would be categorized as paraesophageal dysphagia. The ability to identify the specific mechanism causing swallowing difficulties increases the chance of a more effective, targeted treatment.

The diagnosis of swallowing disorders and other conditions affecting the esophagus is generally done with a barium swallow and/or endoscopy. Esophageal manometry is a much better option for its ability to test patients in a comprehensive manner and identify the specific abnormality in the esophagus.

Contact a medical professional for esophageal manometry support near you.