Utility of Esophagram versus High-Resolution Manometry in the Detection of Esophageal Dysmotility

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This study compared barium esophagram with high-resolution esophageal manometry (HRM) results to determine whether esophagram is an adequate screening examination for esophageal motility disorders, a common cause of dysphagia.

Study Design

Case series with chart review.


Tertiary academic medical center.

Subjects and Methods

A retrospective review was completed of 281 patients who underwent both HRM and esophagram from March 2012 to June 2014. Inclusion criteria included a specific assessment of the presence or absence of dysmotility on both examinations.


Eighty-four males and 197 females were included in the study. Average age was 57 years (range, 16-84). Average time between studies was 19 days (range, 0-90). Motility was judged to be normal in 40.2% (113 of 281) of esophagrams and 46.6% (131 of 281) of HRM studies. However, disagreement between the study findings was significant (P = .04). The sensitivity of esophagram for detecting esophageal dysmotility was 0.69, and specificity was 0.50. The positive and negative predictive values of esophagram for dysmotility were 0.61 and 0.58, respectively.


Esophagram is useful in the assessment of anatomic abnormalities but is a poor screening examination for the detection of esophageal dysmotility. Patients with suspected esophageal dysphagia should be referred for HRM to evaluate motility disorders and identify potential treatment targets, regardless of esophagram results.

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