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November 6, 1981

Human Esophageal Response During Chest Pain Induced by Swallowing Cold Liquids

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Medicine, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, and National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Md. Dr Meyer is now with the Department of Medicine, Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio.

JAMA. 1981;246(18):2057-2059. doi:10.1001/jama.1981.03320180049030

Normal persons often note chest or back pain during rapid ingestion of cold liquids, commonly believed to result from cold-induced "spasm" of esophageal muscle. We studied the effects of swallowing cold liquids on esophageal function in five normal subjects, aged 20 to 44 years, by comparing their response to cold ice cream (—5 °C) and room temperature ice cream mix (20 °C). Decreased peristaltic amplitude was seen during cold ice cream ingestion, primarily in the midesophagus. When seven subjects rapidly ingested ice cream until chest pain was produced and maintained for at least 60 s, complete absence of motor activity in the distal esophagus occurred, with slow return to normal during the ensuing five minutes. Our studies indicate that ingestion of cold liquids significantly depresses peristaltic amplitudes and frequency of peristalsis in normal persons, and pain is associated with complete absence of motor activity in the body of the esophagus, rather than esophageal "spasm" as commonly believed.

(JAMA 1981;246:2057-2059)