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What Is Esophageal Manometry?

Esophageal manometry is a test used to identify swallowing problems. It measures the strength and muscle coordination of your esophagus when you swallow. The esophagus is the "food pipe" leading from the mouth to the stomach.

During the manometry test, a tube is passed through the nose, along the back of the throat, down the esophagus, and into the stomach.

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Who Gets Esophageal Manometry?

The esophageal manometry test may be given to people who have the following conditions:

  • Swallowing problems
  • Heartburn or reflux
  • Chest pain

How Does Manometry Work?

Your esophagus moves food from your throat down to your stomach with a wave-like motion called peristalsis. Manometry will indicate how well the esophagus can perform peristalsis. Manometry also allows the doctor to examine the muscular valve connecting the esophagus with the stomach, called the lower esophageal sphincter, or LES. This valve relaxes to allow food and liquid to enter the stomach. It closes to prevent food and liquid from moving out of the stomach and back up the esophagus.

Abnormalities with peristalsis and LES function may cause symptoms such as swallowing difficulty, heartburn, or chest pain. Information obtained from manometry may help doctors to identify the problem. The information is also very important for anti-reflux surgery.

What Happens Before Manometry?

Before having manometry, be sure to tell your doctor if you are pregnant, have a lung or heart condition, have any other medical problems or diseases, or if you are allergic to any medications.

Also, tell your doctor about any medicines you take. There are some drugs that may interfere with esophageal manometry. These include:

  • Proton pump inhibitors such as Prilosec, Protonix, Aciphex, and Nexium
  • H2 blockers such as Pepcid and Zantac
  • Antacids such as Tums and Maalox
  • Calcium channel blockers such as Procardia and Cardizem
  • Nitrate medications such as Isordil and nitroglycerin
  • Beta-blockers such as Inderal and Corgard

Do not discontinue any medication without first consulting with your doctor.

Can I Eat or Drink Before Manometry?

Do not eat or drink anything eight hours before having manometry.

What Happens During Esophageal Manometry?

During esophageal manometry, a small (about 1/4 inch in diameter) flexible tube is passed through your nose, down your esophagus, and into your stomach. You are not sedated, although a topical anesthetic (pain-relieving medication) may be applied to your nose to make the passage of the tube more comfortable. The tube is connected to a machine that records the contractions of the esophageal muscles on a graph.

You may feel some discomfort as the tube is being placed, but this process takes only about a minute. Most people quickly adjust to the tube's presence. The tube will not interfere with your breathing. Vomiting and coughing are possible (although rare) when the tube is being placed.

After the tube is inserted, you are asked to lie on your left side. You will be asked to swallow water at certain times during the test. A small sensor will record each time you swallow.

The tube is then slowly withdrawn. The gastroenterologist (a doctor who specializes in conditions of the gastrointestinal tract) will interpret the esophageal contractions that were recorded during the test.

The test lasts from 30 to 40 minutes.

What Happens After Having Manometry?

You may resume your normal diet and activities after having manometry. If your throat feels sore following the test, suck on lozenges or gargle with warm salt water.

Warning About Manometry

If you have any unusual symptoms or side effects following esophageal manometry, call your doctor or go to the emergency room immediately.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by William Blahd, MD on September 08, 2014

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