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What are Esophageal Motility Disorders & How are They Treated?

Esophageal motility disorders are a broad class of diseases that disrupt the ability of the esophagus to carry food to the stomach. Under normal conditions, the esophagus propels food toward the stomach through peristalsis, a series of involuntary, wave-like muscle contractions that push a ball of food forward. Peristalsis occurs in only one direction and is a vital part of the digestion process. For reasons that are still largely unknown, however, the underlying muscle contractions of esophageal peristalsis can become ineffective. When this happens, an affected individual can begin to experience symptoms consistent with an esophageal motility disorder.

Esophageal motility disorders are characterized by:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Involuntary regurgitation
  • Chest discomfort
  • Choking on food
  • Heartburn
  • Halitosis (bad breath)
  • Weight loss

The most common esophageal motility disorder is achalasia, a complete loss of peristalsis coupled with a hypertensive and non-relaxed lower esophageal sphincter. Achalasia can be diagnosed through an upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract endoscopy, a liquid barium swallow, an esophageal manometry, and/or an acid reflux test. Treatment for this and other motility disorders affecting the esophagus can include eating habit modification, medication, BOTOX® injections, balloon dilation, and surgery. After treatment, follow-up monitoring is generally recommended to prevent the symptoms of achalasia from returning.

Tampa General Hospital’s Endoscopy Center is staffed by physicians who diagnose and treat a wide array esophageal motility disorders. Our team of gastroenterological specialists provides quality, patient-centered care with the aid of some of the most advanced medical technology available. U.S. News & World Report recognized TGH in 2017-18 as one of America’s Best Hospitals in Gastroenterology & GI Surgery.

We invite you to use our Physician Finder or call 1-800-833-3627 to find a gastroenterologist.