Food for Thought: What happens in the esophagus, doesn't stay in the esophagus…So who cares? The esophagus is an organ of transport. As speech language pathologists (SLP), we are rarely concerned with the function of the esophagus unless the bolus transport is slowed, halted, or redirected resulting in patient symptoms and signs unexplained by the oropha-ryngeal evaluation findings. Esophageal function appears deceptively simple and ignorable ... Viewpoint
Viewpoint  |   December 01, 2007
Food for Thought: What happens in the esophagus, doesn't stay in the esophagus…So who cares?
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Caryn S. Easterling
    University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI
Article Information
Swallowing, Dysphagia & Feeding Disorders / Food for Thought
Viewpoint   |   December 01, 2007
Food for Thought: What happens in the esophagus, doesn't stay in the esophagus…So who cares?
SIG 13 Perspectives on Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders (Dysphagia), December 2007, Vol. 16, 19-20. doi:10.1044/sasd16.4.19
SIG 13 Perspectives on Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders (Dysphagia), December 2007, Vol. 16, 19-20. doi:10.1044/sasd16.4.19
The esophagus is an organ of transport. As speech language pathologists (SLP), we are rarely concerned with the function of the esophagus unless the bolus transport is slowed, halted, or redirected resulting in patient symptoms and signs unexplained by the oropha-ryngeal evaluation findings. Esophageal function appears deceptively simple and ignorable as we assess the efficient, brisk movement of the prepared, cohesive bolus as it moves through the pharynx, past the closed airway, into the relaxed, compliant, and maximally opened upper esophageal sphincter (UES) leaving no remnants behind to be inhaled or cleared by the next breath or swallow.
The patient is happy, you are happy, and there is no reason at all to look any further because the patient’s oropharyngeal deglutitive function appears normal. However, how does the SLP explain the patient’s clinical history that precipitated the evaluation? After all, the patient’s clinical history included reports of occasional regur-gitation, coughing, and the feeling of solid food “sticking” in his or her throat. The clinician may be confident that the outcome of the patient’s oropharyngeal swallow evaluation was characteristic of functional, safe, efficient, and normal swallowing for all consistencies and volumes; the SLP attributes the patient’s complaints to another portion of the digestive tract, that is, the esophagus!
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