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Esophageal Peristalsis Often Incomplete in Preterm Infants

Manometry study shows pressure segments in esophagus still developing in preterm infants

FRIDAY, May 18 (HealthDay News) -- Peristalsis develops at different rates in the segments of the preterm infant esophagus, which may contribute to incomplete swallowing and infant reflux disease, according to a report in the May issue of Gastroenterology. A complete, post-swallow contraction sequence is present in only 26 percent of preterm neonates compared with 55 percent of term neonates.

Ray Clouse, M.D., of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and colleagues performed high-resolution manometry in 16 preterm and 14 term neonates to determine how structural development of the esophagus relates to esophageal motility or peristalsis. This method provides a contour map of esophageal pressure responses after swallowing.

The investigators found that the second of three esophageal segments was well developed in all infants in over half of swallows. The two other segments were developed in only two preterm neonates (12.5 percent) and eight term neonates (57 percent).

"Control mechanisms for both striated- and smooth-muscle esophageal regions are incompletely developed in neonates, the outcome of which could participate in infant reflux disease," the authors conclude.

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