The unequivocal diagnosis of esophageal chest pain requires the demonstration of simultaneous manometric changes and chest pain. Numerous provocative agents have been used to enhance the diagnostic value of esophageal manometry. Our aims were to: (1) evaluate consecutively a large group of patients with proven noncardiac chest pain and normal baseline manometric studies, using edrophonium chloride, 10 mg, and (2) determine the value of provocative testing in clinical practice. One hundred twenty patients with normal standard baseline esophageal manometries were studied using blinded testing with edrophonium chloride and followed clinically by questionnaire. A positive response of both chest pain and manometric changes was observed in 34%, a negative response in 49%, and an indeterminate response in 17% of patients. Baseline manometric features, including high-amplitude contractions, did not predict the response to edrophonium chloride. Following edrophonium chloride administration, the change in amplitude, duration, and number of repetitive contractions from baseline was significantly greater in positive responders. Edrophonium decreased the velocity of propagated contractions in positive responders (P<0.05), but not in nonresponders. Response to edrophonium chloride could not be predicted by patient age, sex, or clinical symptomatology. Seventy percent of patients in both groups had symptoms indistinguishable from ischemic heart disease. After making a specific diagnosis of esophageal chest pain, patients showed a marked clinical improvement, with a significant decrease in physical limitation, emergency room visits, hospital and CCU admissions, and in further cardiac testing. We conclude that provocative testing with edrophonium chloride will make it possible to definitively implicate the esophagus in over 30% of patients with normal baseline manometric findings and noncardiac chest pain.
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