Patients with Chagas' disease often have chest pain as a prominent symptom. The objective of this study was to compare the results of intraesophageal balloon distension in chagasic and nonchagasic patients with chest pain not caused by coronary obstruction. We studied 40 patients with chest pain and angiographically normal coronary arteries, 25 with a positive serologic test for Chagas' disease (Chagas group, 16 women, mean age 53 ± 10 years), and 15 with a negative serologic test (control group, 11 women, mean age 46 ± 10 years). All patients had radiologic and endoscopic examinations of esophagus, stomach, and duodenum, esophageal manometry with the acid infusion test in the distal esophagus, and intraesophageal balloon distension. None of them had esophageal dilation or any signs of cardiovascular disease. A 25-mm-long latex balloon located 10 cm above the lower esophageal sphincter was inflated and deflated over a period of 10 sec at 1-ml increments of air until the subjects reported chest pain or to a maximum volume of 20 ml. The test caused chest pain in 14 subjects in the control group (93%) and in 12 in the Chagas' disease group (48%, P < 0.05). The mean volume of air that caused chest pain was 10 ± 3 ml in the control group and 15 ± 4 ml in the Chagas' disease group (mean ± SD, P < 0.05). The maximum intraesophageal pressure during the examination was higher in Chagas' disease patients with chest pain during balloon distension (60 ± 21 mm Hg) than in patients who did not have chest pain (37 ± 18 mm Hg, P < 0.05) and did not differ from the control group (48 ± 16 mm Hg, P > 0.05). With the other examinations there was no difference between groups or between patients with or without chest pain during the balloon distension test. Although esophagitis was observed in 47% of patients in the control group and in 40% of the Chagas' disease group, the acid infusion test was positive in 27% of patients in the control group and in 4% of patients in the Chagas' disease group. We conclude that, as compared to a group of patients with similar chest pain, chagasic patients are less sensitive to esophageal distension. Thus, it is unlikely that their chest pain is related to esophageal mechanisms.