This study investigated the relationship between the oesophageal acid exposure time and the underlying manometric motor events in patients with gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD). In 31 patients, 3-hour oesophageal motility and pH were measured after a test meal. Ten patients underwent 24-hour ambulatory manometry and pH recording. In the 3-hour postprandial study, of 367 reflux episodes 79% was associated with a transient lower oesophageal sphincter relaxation (TLOSR), 14% with absent basal lower oesophageal sphincter (LOS) pressure and the remaining 7% with other mechanisms, representing 62, 28 and 10% of the acid exposure time, respectively. Acid reflux duration per motor mechanism was longer for absent basal LOS pressure than for TLOSR (189 +/- 23 s and 41 +/- 5 s, respectively, P < 0.001). In the 24-hour ambulatory study, the contribution of TLOSRs to reflux frequency vs acid exposure time were 65 vs 54% interprandially and 74 vs 53% after the meal. During the night, absence of basal LOS pressure accounted for 36% of reflux events representing 71% of acid exposure time. In conclusion, the duration of oesophageal acid exposure following a TLOSR is shorter than reflux during absent basal LOS pressure. TLOSRs are, the major contributor to oesophageal acid exposure during the day. At night, however, reflux during absent basal LOS pressure is the major contributor to acid exposure.