Diseases & Conditions
Gastroesophageal Reflux (GERD) – Diagnostic Procedures
How is Gastroesophageal Reflux (GERD) Diagnosed?
There are several procedures your physician may use to diagnose whether you have GERD:
- Bravo pH Test
- Computed Tomography (CT) Scan
- Esophageal Manometry
- Esophagogastroduodenscopy (EGD)
- Gastric emptying
- Pulmonary function Test (PFT)
Bravo pH Test
The Bravo pH test is the first catheter-free way to measure the amount of pH in your esophagus and is generally used to diagnose GERD. An endoscope is briefly passed through your mouth and into your esophagus to place a small gelcap that detects pH levels; the gelcap stays in place for 24 to 48 hours as you go about your daily activities. If there is a low pH in the esophagus, you may have GERD.
Computed Tomography (CT) Scan
Doctors order CT scans when they want to see a two-dimensional image of your body, including a view of the lymph nodes. If contrast dye is used to improve the computer image, you may need to avoid eating or drinking for 4 to 6 hours before the test. Be sure to tell your provider prior to the test if you have any allergies or if you have kidney problems.
Esophageal manometry is a test in which a thin tube is inserted through your mouth or nose and into your stomach. Once it is in place, the physician will gently pull the tube back into the esophagus and ask you to swallow. As you do so, the pressure and coordination of your muscle contractions will be measured. If the pressure is low or the LES is not contracting properly, it may indicate GERD.
Before esophagogastroduodenscopy, you will be given a sedative. Your physician will thread a narrow, flexible tube called an endoscope—which has a tiny light and camera at the tip—through your mouth, esophagus and into your stomach and sometimes small intestine. He or she can then see any abnormalities and take tissue samples for laboratory analysis if desired.
An esophagram, or contrast esophagram, is a series of x-rays of your esophagus. For an esophagram, you will be asked to drink a barium sulfate liquid while x-rays are taken of the swallowing process. As the liquid moves from the mouth down to the esophagus, the physician can assess any narrowing, enlargement or abnormalities. You will most likely be asked not to eat or drink for 8 to 10 hours prior to the test.
If you have symptoms that suggest slow or rapid emptying from your stomach into your small intestine, your physician may order a gastric emptying study. You will eat a meal that contains solid food and a liquid, as well as a small amount of radioactive material. As you digest, a scanner will be placed over your stomach. The scanner can detect how quickly the radioactive particles move through your stomach into your intestines, and treatment decisions can be made. The radioactive material is not absorbed into your body and is eliminated through the bowel. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Pulmonary Function Tests (PFT)
To understand how well your lungs are working, your physician may order a series PFTs. With each breath you take in and breathe out, information is recorded about how much air your lungs take in, how the air moves through your lungs, and how well your lungs deliver oxygen to your bloodstream.