Modulation of Upper Esophageal Sphincter (UES) Relaxation and Opening During Volume Swallowing

Charles Cock, Corinne Jones, Michael Hammer, Taher Omari, Timothy McCulloch

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    37 Citations (Scopus)


    UES opening occurs following cricopharyngeus deactivation and submental muscle contraction causing hyolaryngeal elevation and UES distraction. During impedance manometry, the inverse of impedance (admittance) can be used to measure bolus presence and infer UES opening. We hypothesized that the temporal relationship between UES relaxation, opening and hyolaryngeal elevation would change with increasing bolus volume. Simultaneous intramuscular cricopharyngeal (CP) electromyography (EMG), surface submental EMG (SM-EMG), and high-resolution impedance manometry were recorded in eight (aged 27 ± 7 years, 5 M) healthy volunteers, while swallowing 0.9 % saline boluses of 2, 5, 10, and 20 ml. Data were exported and analyzed via Matlab. Statistical analysis comprised repeated measures one-way ANOVA and Pearson correlation. A P value of <0.05 was considered significant. Duration of CP deactivation increased at 20 ml volume (P < 0.001). UES relaxation and opening increased with increasing bolus volume (P < 0.001); however, overall duration of SM activation did not change. As UES opening occurs progressively earlier with increasing volumes, peak SM-EMG activity occurs relatively later (P < 0.001) and shifts from occurring before to following peak UES distention. During healthy swallowing, there is sensory modulation of cricopharyngeal and submental muscle activity. Intrabolus pressures, transmitted from the tongue base and pharynx, play a progressively more important role in sphincter opening with increasing volume. The findings may explain why some healthy elderly and patients with oropharyngeal dysphagia have difficulty swallowing larger while tolerating smaller bolus volumes.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)216-224
    Number of pages9
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2017


    • Bolus volume
    • Cricopharyngeal electromyography
    • Deglutition
    • Deglutition disorders
    • Submental electromyography
    • UES opening


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