Find out what a gastroenterologist says about how long or short an esophageal spasm might last.

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To learn how long or for how brief an esophageal spasm may be, I consulted with Steven Fleisher, MD, chief of gastroenterology at the Center for Digestive Disease at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center.

“Esophageal Spasm”

“‘Esophageal spasm’ is a lay term,” begins Dr. Fleisher. “It implies some form of discomfort, or clinical symptom such as difficulty swallowing associated with or purportedly due to abnormal function of the esophagus with intense or abnormal contraction or ‘spasm.’”

Dr. Fleisher says that an esophageal motility study is the “best test of esophageal dysfunction supporting evidence of increased pressure in the esophagus and hence ‘spasm.’”

Duration of Spasms

“In these studies, the duration of contractions or ‘spasms’ is important,” says Dr. Fleisher.

“For example, to meet the criteria for the entity ‘diffuse esophageal spasm,’ one is required to have contractions that last for greater than 6 seconds, are repetitive, and do not often progress down the esophagus in the normal way.

“Other important criteria include increased pressure in the esophagus.”

He continues: “Esophageal spasms can vary in duration. Clinically important contractions need to persist for more than 6 seconds.”

As far as getting the correct diagnosis, Dr. Fleisher explains that an esophageal spasm is “often a clinical diagnosis, and a diagnosis of exclusion.

Endoscopy is a poor test for evaluation. X-ray study such as a barium swallow will provide better physiological information suggesting disordered contraction but are poor at associating symptoms with the observed abnormality.”

Dr. Fleisherdr. fleisher was named a 2015-2018 “Top Doc” by Baltimore Magazine for gastroenterology.