Impedance monitoring (Imp) measures bolus transit. Combining Imp with manometry (EM) allows the effect of contractile patterns on transit to be assessed. The objective of this study is to identify bolus transit patterns in normal subjects, correlate Imp findings with the gold standard barium esophagram (Ba), and compare bolus transit with concomitant EM findings. Simultaneous Ba-Imp-EM was performed for 2 min in 15 normal volunteers (women, 11; age, 43 yr). Combined impedance-pressure sites were 5, 10, 15, 20 cm above the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). Boluses (10 ml) of 45% barium mixed with 0.9% NaCl were swallowed at > or = 20-s intervals (5-6 swallows/subject). Imp and Ba showed three bolus transit patterns, and the two methods were in agreement on the pattern type in 97% (83/86) of swallows. Normal bolus transit was found in 73% (61/83), and each had normal peristalsis and contraction amplitude. Stasis in the proximal esophagus occurred in 7 of 83 swallows despite normal manometric parameters in 4 of 7 swallows. Retrograde escape of a residue of incompletely cleared bolus from just above the LES to the site 5 cm above occurred in 14 of 83 swallows. Retrograde escape was triggered by the next swallow, occurred despite normal manometric parameters, and did not occur if the swallow interval was >30 s. In 55% (47/86) of swallows, air accumulated in the distal esophagus and persisted there for a mean of 3.6 s until cleared into the stomach. We conclude that impedance monitoring is a valid transit test and describe bolus transit patterns in normal subjects for comparison with patients with esophageal motility disorders.