Effect of Sodium Valproate on Esophageal Motility in Healthy Subjects and Patients with Gastroesophageal Reflux

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There is experimental evidence to show that upper gastrointestinal tract motility is influenced by a GABAergic mechanism. Sodium valproate acts as a GABA agonist, and has been proven to affect the human internal anal sphincter. The aim of this study was to evaluate any possible effect of sodium valproate on esophageal motility in healthy subjects and patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).


Ten healthy volunteers (4 M, 6 F; age range: 20–61 years) and 12 patients (4 M, 8 F; age range: 25–70 years) with GERD were included in the study. Standard esophageal manometry and ambulatory 24-h esophageal pH monitoring were performed before and 5 days after oral administration of sodium valproate (400 mg four times per day). Main measurements included a) lower esophageal sphincter (LES) resting pressure and amplitude and duration of peristalsis at 5, 10 and 15 cm proximal to LES, and b) percentage of time with esophageal pH <4 and number of reflux episodes.


Sodium valproate (i) significantly increased LES resting pressure in both groups (P < 0.05), without affecting either the LES postdeglutition relaxation or any of the parameters of the esophageal peristaltic activity, (ii) significantly reduced the number of reflux episodes at the postprandial period in both healthy subjects (P = 0.02) and reflux patients without hiatal hernia (P = 0.04) and (iii) the time percentage with esophageal pH <4 at the postprandial period in reflux patients (P = 0.01).


Sodium valproate increases normal and reduced tonic activity of the human LES and reduces the number of reflux episodes in health and GERD. This action could be attributed to a central GABAergic mechanism.

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