Esophagus tests measure muscle pressure and
movement, coordination, and strength of the tube that connects the throat to
the stomach (esophagus). They test how well the ring of muscles
(sphincters) at the top and bottom of the esophagus work. Esophagus tests also measure the movement and volume of gas, liquid, and solid through the esophagus and its pH (acid or nonacid). See a picture of the
The most common esophagus
(esophageal acidity test), which measures the acid content (pH) in the esophagus. A low pH for long periods
may mean frequent abnormal backflow (reflux) of stomach acid into the
esophagus (gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD).
Esophageal manometry, which measures the
strength and pattern of muscle contractions in the esophagus. This test can
- Weakness in the
lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which allows acid to
reflux into the esophagus.
- Weak muscle contractions during
swallowing that slow the rate at which food or stomach acid is cleared from the
- Abnormally strong contractions (spasms) that can cause
chest pain or the sensation that food is stuck after swallowing (dysphagia).
Either pH or manometry testing can be combined with a test that measures the movement and volume of gas, liquid, and solid through the esophagus (multichannel intraluminal impedance testing, or MII). When MII is combined with manometry (MII-EM), it can show how the muscles of the esophagus are contracting when there is food or liquid in the esophagus. When MII is combined with pH testing (MII-pH), it can detect reflux from the stomach into the esophagus and measure both the volume and the acidity.
Why It Is Done
Tests on the esophagus are done
- Help find the cause of chest pain that is not caused by heart problems (called noncardiac chest pain).
- Help determine the cause of GERD symptoms for a person who has
not been helped by medicine and whose esophagus looks normal during an
- Monitor the effectiveness
of treatment for GERD.
- Detect spasms of the esophagus, which can
cause chest pain, and problems with the ability of the esophagus to move food
down to the stomach (motility problems).
- Determine whether the
esophagus is working normally.
- Evaluate how the esophagus works before surgery for GERD.
Esophagus tests are usually not done in people with GERD if their symptoms are well controlled with medicine.
How To Prepare
To prepare for an esophagus test:
- Do not take antacids (such as Tums or Rolaids)
for 24 hours before
- Follow your doctor's instructions for using other acid reducers or blockers, such as famotidine (Pepcid) or omeprazole (Prilosec), before the test.
- Do not
drink alcohol or smoke for 24 hours before the test.
- Do not eat or
drink for 8 to 12 hours before testing.
- Tell your doctor if you
have any other problems, such as enlarged esophageal blood vessels (esophageal
heart failure, or other heart conditions.
Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have regarding
the need for the test, its risks, how it will be done, or what the results may
mean. To help you understand the importance of this test, fill out the
medical test information form(What is a PDF document?).