Dysfunction of the belch reflex. A cause of incapacitating chest pain

P. J. Kahrilas*, W. J. Dodds, W. J. Hogan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


We report a 25-yr-old woman who suffered incapacitating chest pain caused by upper esophageal sphincter (UES) dysfunction. She presented with a long history of severe episodic chest pain associated with gurgling noises in her chest and was unable to belch despite feeling a need to do so during pain episodes. Fluoroscopic and manometric studies confirmed that the patient's chest pain and gurgling noise were associated with dysfunction of the belch reflex. Although reflux of gas from the stomach into the esophageal body occurred normally, the extreme esophageal distention resulting from the gas reflux failed to trigger UES relaxation. Consequently, there was no venting of gas across the UES. The gurgling noise was caused by the gastroesophageal reflux of gas and the pain was associated with profound esophageal distention. A manometric study of the UES revealed absent or incomplete UES relaxation in response to abrupt esophageal distention by gastroesophageal gas reflux, so that the nadir of UES pressure always exceeded esophageal body pressure. The distended esophagus was repeatedly cleared by secondary peristalsis. To our knowledge this is the first description of chest pain caused by dysfunction of the belch reflex. We speculate that the mechanism described in this patient may account for a subgroup of patients with "chest pain of esophageal origin.".

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)818-822
Number of pages5
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1987

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology


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