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Local longitudinal muscle shortening of the human esophagus from high-frequency ultrasonography.

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  • 1Department of Mechanical Engineering, Pennsylvania State University, University Park 16802, Pennsylvania, USA.


We analyzed local longitudinal shortening by combining concurrent ultrasonography and manometry with basic principles of mechanics. We applied the law of mass conservation to quantify local axial shortening of the esophageal wall from ultrasonically measured cross-sectional area concurrently with measured intraluminal pressure, from which correlations between local contraction of longitudinal and circular muscle are inferred. Two clear phases of local longitudinal shortening were observed during bolus transport. During luminal filling by bolus fluid, the muscle layer distends and the muscle thickness decreases in the absence of circular or longitudinal muscle contraction. This is followed by local contraction, first in longitudinal muscle, then in circular muscle. Maximal longitudinal shortening occurs nearly coincidently with peak intraluminal pressure. Longitudinal muscle contraction begins before and ends after circular muscle contraction. Larger longitudinal shortening is correlated with higher pressure amplitude, suggesting that circumferential contractile forces are enhanced by longitudinal muscle shortening. We conclude that a peristaltic wave of longitudinal muscle contraction envelops the wave of circular muscle contraction as it passes through the middle esophagus, with peak longitudinal contraction aligned with peak circular muscular contraction. Our results suggest that the coordination of the two waves may be a physiological response to the mechanical influence of longitudinal shortening, which increases contractile force while reducing average muscle fiber tension by increasing circular muscle fiber density locally near the bolus tail.

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