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Original Research |

Esophageal Function in Elderly Men: A New Look at "Presbyesophagus"

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The opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and cannot be construed as reflecting the views of the Navy Department or of the Naval Service at large.

▴Requests for reprints should be addressed to LCDR Joseph B. Hollis, MC USN, U.S. Naval Hospital, Philadelphia, PA 19145.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Ann Intern Med. 1974;80(3):371-374. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-80-3-371
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We have studied esophageal motility in nonhospitalized elderly men (70 to 87 years old) and in control subjects (19 to 27 years old) without neurological disease or diabetes. Esophageal function was studied basally and after intravenous administration of 80 µg/kg body weight of edrophonium chloride. For control subjects mean basal and postinjection amplitudes were significantly greater (P < 0.05) than those for aged subjects, with a marked decline in amplitude in subjects more than 80 years old. In contrast with the decreased amplitude in the 80-year-old men, the propagation of peristaltic waves, as measured by speed, duration, and onset of contraction after a swallow, was similar for all groups and responded similarly to edrophonium chloride. No increase in abnormal spontaneous motility was noted in the elderly men. These findings suggest a weakening in esophageal smooth muscle with an intact nervous pathway. Disordered motility in elderly persons is most likely caused by disease, rather than by aging. Perhaps presbyesophagus needs to be redefined.





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