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Heartburn/GERD Health Center

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Diagnosing Acid Reflux Disease

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Diagnosing Acid Reflux With Endoscopy or EGD

During an endoscopy, the doctor inserts a small tube with a camera on the end through the mouth into the esophagus. This enables the doctor to see the lining of the esophagus and stomach.

Before inserting the tube, your gastroenterologist may administer a mild sedative to help you relax. The doctor may also spray your throat with an analgesic spray to make the procedure more comfortable for you.

This acid reflux test typically lasts about 20 minutes. It is not painful and will not interfere with your ability to breathe.

While this test may detect some complications of GERD, including esophagitis and Barrett's esophagus, only about half the people with acid reflux disease have visible changes to the lining of their esophagus.

Diagnosing Acid Reflux With a Biopsy

Depending on what the EGD shows, your doctor may decide to perform a biopsy during the procedure. If this is the case, your gastroenterologist will pass a tiny surgical instrument through the scope to remove a small piece of the lining in the esophagus. The tissue sample will then be sent to a pathology lab for analysis. There it will be assessed to see if there is an underlying disease such as esophageal cancer.

Diagnosing Acid Reflux With Esophageal Manometry

Your doctor may perform an esophageal manometry to diagnose acid reflux. This is a test to assess your esophageal function. It also checks to see if the esophageal sphincter -- a valve between the stomach and esophagus -- is working as well as it should.

After applying a numbing agent to the inside of your nose, the doctor will ask you to remain seated. Then a narrow, flexible tube will be passed through your nose, through your esophagus, and into your stomach.

When the tube is in the correct position, the doctor will have you lay on your left side. When you do, sensors on the tube will measure the pressure being exerted at various locations inside your esophagus and stomach. To assess your esophageal functioning even further, you may be asked to take a few sips of water. The sensors on the tube will record the muscle contractions in your esophagus as the water passes down into your stomach.

The test typically takes 20 to 30 minutes.

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