Function of upper esophageal sphincter during swallowing: The grabbing effect

Philippe Pouderoux, Peter J. Kahrilas*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


This study investigated deglutitive axial force developed within the pharynx, upper esophageal sphincter (UES), and cervical esophagus. Position and deglutitive excursion of the UES were determined using combined manometry and videofluoroscopy in eight healthy volunteers. Deglutitive clearing force was quantified with a force transducer to which nylon balls of 6- or 8-mm diameter were tethered and positioned within the oropharynx, hypopharynx, UES, and cervical esophagus. Axial force recordings were synchronized with videofluoroscopic imaging. Clearing force was dependent on both sphere diameter (P < 0.05) and location, with greater force exhibited in the hypopharynx and UES compared with the oropharynx and esophagus (P < 0.05). Within the UES, the onset of traction force coincided with passage of the pharyngeal clearing wave but persisted well beyond this. On videofluoroscopy, the persistent force was associated with the aboral motion of the ball caught within the UES. Force abated with gradual slippage of the UES around the ball. The force attributable to the combination of UES contraction and laryngeal descent was named the grabbing effect. The grabbing effect functions to transfer luminal contents distal to the laryngeal inlet at the end of the pharyngeal swallow, presumably acting to prevent regurgitation and/or aspiration of swallowed material.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)G1057-G1063
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology
Issue number5 35-5
StatePublished - May 1997


  • Pharynx
  • Traction force

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Physiology (medical)


Dive into the research topics of 'Function of upper esophageal sphincter during swallowing: The grabbing effect'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this