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Am J Physiol. 1993 Mar;264(3 Pt 1):G427-32.

Effect of aging and bolus variables on pharyngeal and upper esophageal sphincter motor function.

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Medical College of Wisconsin Dysphagia Institute, Milwaukee.


Effect of aging, bolus volume, temperature, and consistency on the pharyngeal peristalsis, as well as the effect of aging on the upper esophageal sphincter (UES) resting pressure and its response to esophageal distension by air and balloon, were studied in 14 young and 12 healthy elderly volunteers. In both age groups there was no significant volume or temperature effect on amplitude, duration, or velocity of the pharyngeal peristalsis. Compared with water swallows, mashed potato swallows resulted in a significant increase in the amplitude and duration of the hypopharyngeal peristaltic pressure wave (P < 0.05). For water swallows, the amplitude and duration of the peristaltic pressure wave in the hypopharynx were significantly increased in the elderly compared with the young group (P < 0.01). UES resting pressure in the elderly measured 43 +/- 5 (SE) mmHg and was significantly less than that of the young (71 +/- 8 mmHg; P < 0.01). Magnitude of the UES pressure decrease because of esophageal distension by air, as well as magnitude of its pressure increase because of esophageal balloon distension, was similar among young and elderly. 1) Contrary to common expectations, the parameters of the pharyngeal peristaltic pressure wave do not deteriorate in the elderly in their seventh and eighth decade. 2) Compared with the young, hypopharyngeal pressure wave amplitude and duration are significantly increased in the elderly. This increase could be caused by an adaptation response to a pharyngeal outflow compromise. 3) Pharyngeal peristaltic pressure wave amplitude and duration, but not its velocity, are modulated by the bolus consistency. This modulatory mechanism is preserved in the elderly. 4) Although UES resting pressure is significantly decreased in the elderly, its pressure response to esophageal distension by air and balloon is preserved.

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