Pharynx – There are three stages to swallowing:
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The last four centimetres of the oesophagus is the cardiac sphincter. So, it is a muscular valve preventing the stomach contents from re-entering the oesophagus. However, most of the oesophagus (about nine inches) lies within the thoracic cavity. And it is subject to subatmospheric pressures, as are the lungs. This is because the cardiac sphincter lies below the diaphragm. Moreover, it is subject to 5 to 10 mm/Hg of pressure higher than that of the atmosphere. This higher pressure would force the stomach contents back into the oesophagus if the cardiac sphincter were not present.