Esophageal Function Studies
Esophageal function studies measure movement, coordination and strength of the muscles of the esophagus. They may also identify gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which occurs as a result of an esophageal motility disorder. These tests include:
- Esophageal manometry
- pH monitoring
Esophageal manometry measures the strength and pattern of muscle contractions in the esophagus. It takes 20 to 30 minutes and can detect:
- Weakness in the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which allows acid to flow backwards, or reflux, into the esophagus
- Weak muscle contractions during swallowing that slow the rate at which food or stomach acid is cleared from the esophagus
- Abnormally strong contractions, or spasms, that can cause chest pain or a feeling that food is stuck after swallowing (dysphagia)
pH monitoring is also called the esophageal acidity test. It measures the esophagus acid content (pH). People with excessive heartburn often have too much acid backing up into the esophagus. A low pH for extended times indicates frequent abnormal backflow (reflux) of stomach acid into the esophagus. There are two types of tests for pH monitoring.
- Catheter-based 24-hour pH/impedance test: This test finds out how often stomach acid enters the esophagus, and how long it stays there. The technology also detects reflux of nonacidic contents, such as bile. During the exam, a small tube is inserted through your nose and passed into the esophagus. A monitor is attached to the tube that tracks the amount of acidic or nonacidic reflux in the esophagus. You will keep a diary while the tube is in place that describes daily activities and symptoms. After the test is over, you can drive yourself home.
- Bravo wireless capsule monitoring system: In this test, a wireless transducer is placed in the lower esophagus through an endocope. While you go through normal activities for 24 to 48 hours, the transducer records data and sends it to a receiver on your belt. Data on the receiver is analyzed for abnormal acid reflux activity. The transducer passes through your GI tract and does not need to be retrieved.
Complications from either of these tests are rare, but may include:
- You may have irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias).
- The tube could go down the windpipe (trachea) instead of the esophagus as it is being inserted.
- There may be minor trauma to the nose.
- You may vomit material from your stomach and then breathe it into your lungs (aspiration).
- The tube may make a hole in the esophagus (perforation).
Where are These Tests Performed?
Palo Alto Medical Foundation offers a state-of-the-art endoscopy testing facility to screen for gastrointestinal problems. We operate with a highly-trained support staff of nurses and surgical technicians.
Mountain View Center
701 E. El Camino Real
Mountain View, CA 94040
Main phone: 650-934-7575
Office hours: Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.