• acid;
  • endoscopy;
  • experimental pain;
  • heat;
  • oesophagus

Abstract  Previous methods for visceral thermal stimulation have lacked control of the temperature rate and visual inspection of the organ. The aims of this study was to develop a method for linear control of heat stimulation in the human oesophagus combined with endoscopy, to assess the reproducibility of this method and to investigate sensitivity to thermal stimulation of the distal oesophagus before and after acid perfusion. A probe with a 2.8 mm endoscope inside was constructed permitting heat and chemical stimulation. Three different temperature ramps were applied in the distal oesophagus in 12 healthy subjects by recirculation of heated water in a bag. Endoscopy of the oesophageal mucosa was performed prior to experimental stimulation. The temperature, the time of stimulation and the area under the temperature curve (AUC) were measured at the pain detection threshold. Thermal stimulation was repeated after perfusion of the oesophagus with acid. The method was tested on two subsequent days to assess reproducibility. All subjects had a normal endoscopic examination. Day-to-day reproducibility was good for the three temperature ramps (intra-class correlations >0.6). The subjects tolerated less heat stimulation, a decrease in AUC (= 0.0003), a decrease in time to pain detection threshold (= 0.005) and decreased temperature at pain detection threshold (= 0.0001) after acid perfusion. The slow ramp was the most sensitive, showing a decrease in AUC of 29%. The present method was easily implemented and showed good reproducibility. It can potentially be used in basic experiments, drug and clinical studies as it provides a controllable thermal stimulus.