Swallowing reflex is known to be evoked by gastroesophageal regurgitation or oesophageal stimulation in animal studies. However, details regarding the stimulating material, bolus size and stimulation area remain unclear for the stimulation-induced type of swallowing reflex in humans. Here, we evaluated the effects of different kinds of stimulation via water and air injection of the oesophagus on the initiation of the swallowing reflex. Nine healthy individuals participated in this study. A fibre-optic endoscope was passed transnasally, and a thin catheter for injection was passed through the other side. The tip of the catheter was placed at the upper, upper middle, lower middle or lower region of the oesophagus, and the rate of injection was controlled at 0.2 mL/s. Swallowing reflex latency was calculated as the time from injection via air or thin/thick fluid until the onset of white-out in endoscopic images. Reflex latency was significantly shorter when injection occurred at the upper region of the oesophagus than at the lower region, for both thin and thick fluids (P <.01). At the upper region of the oesophagus, the latency was significantly shorter after injection of thin fluid than with thick fluid (P <.05). Injection of air did not induce the swallowing reflex at all sites. These findings suggest that while the swallowing reflex is evoked by stimulation via fluid injection of the oesophagus in humans, sensitivity is greatest in the upper region of the oesophagus compared with the lower region and can vary depending on the injecting material.
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