Esophageal pH studies are conducted to diagnose gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and its accompanying symptoms such as heartburn, acid reflux, cough, sore throat, and hoarseness. This pH test measures the amount of acidity that is being refluxed (i.e. regurgitated or back washed) from the stomach into the esophagus. The test is also performed to measure the effectiveness of acid reflux medications as well as to find out if symptoms of chest pain are the result of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
How esophageal pH studies are done
In an esophageal pH study, a slim plastic catheter, sized about a sixteenth of an inch round, is inserted into a nostril, through the throat and then into the esophagus, as the individual swallows to move the thin tube along. The end of the catheter contains a sensor, which can sense acid. The sensor is situated just above the lower esophageal sphincter, which is the muscle that prevents acids from back washing up from the stomach.
The patients are then allowed to go home, but must keep the catheter in place for 24 hours. During this monitoring time, the patient is supposed to follow their normal routine. That is, they should eat when they normally do, eat what they typically eat and lie down when they generally lie down. The monitoring will be measuring the pH levels during all of these activities.
After 24 hours, the patient returns to their Dallas, Fort Worth clinic, where the catheter is removed. The data recorded on the monitor is downloaded to a computer, where the results can be viewed and evaluated.
A recent device used to monitor gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) through pH monitor is through a capsule. The capsule is attached to the esophageal lining by inserting it through the nose (or mouth) and down the throat, similar to the catheter method. Once the capsule is in place, the catheter is removed. This method provides more comfort, since there is no catheter in the back of the throat. The thought is that more people will perform their normal activities, whether it is eating or going to work, without the catheter in place. The capsule transmits data for two to three days, before the battery dies. Within a week’s time, the capsule will detach from the esophageal lining on its own, only to be passed in the stool.