Premature contraction of the cricopharyngeus: a new sign of gastroesophageal reflux disease
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BACKGROUND: A cricopharyngeal bar seen on barium fluoroscopy has been shown to be related to the presence of gastroesophageal reflux (GER). We investigated premature contraction of the cricopharyngeus (PCC) muscle, which may be a precursor of a fixed cricopharyngeal bar, to assess its significance in GER. METHODS: The prevalence of PCC on barium swallow was recorded in three groups: (1) 83 patients with non-cardiac chest pain who were investigated for possible GER; (2) 21 patients with severe GER undergoing fundoplication; and (3) 25 normal controls. RESULTS: Group 1: PCC was observed in 42 of 77 with documented GER (54.5%), and in two of six patients without GER. Group 2: PCC was present in 11 of 21 fundoplication subjects. Group 3: PCC was seen in five of 25 normal controls. The incidence of PCC in patients with GER was statistically significantly higher than in normal subjects (p = 0.002). The sensitivity of the presence of PCC as a predictor of GER is only 0.54, but the specificity is 0.774, with a positive predictive value of 0.883. CONCLUSION: We conclude that observing premature cricopharyngeal contraction during the first swallows of an upper gastrointestinal (GI) study should direct attention to the possibility of GER.
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