Your description of your symptoms may be all a doctor requires to diagnose heartburn, but sometimes additional testing may be necessary. The esophagus can be viewed through an endoscope, a long, thin, flexible tube inserted through the mouth, or by X-ray.
Sometimes, your doctor may recommend a 24-hour esophageal pH probe study, especially if you have unusual symptoms, such as throat or chest or abdominal pain, coughing, or asthma-like symptoms. In this test, a long, narrow, flexible tube is inserted through the nose down into the esophagus and a probe is left there for 24 hours. This probe detects acid levels to determine if it correlates with your symptoms. A newer technique (called Bravo) measures 24-hour acid; it is done using wireless pH sensors, which eliminates the need for a tube insertion. To detect if your heart is the cause of your symptoms, an electrocardiogram (ECG), a recording of the heart's electrical activity, may be taken.
SOURCES: National Heartburn Alliance. WebMD Medical Reference: "Newly Diagnosed: Heartburn." DeVault, K. and Castell, D. American Journal of Gastroenterology, 2005; vol 100: pp 190-200. Pettit, M. Pharmacy World and Science, December 2005; vol 27: pp 432-435. Talley, N. and Vakil, N. American Journal of Gastroenterology, October 2005; vol 100: pp 2324-2337.
Jennifer Robinson, MD on August 26, 2014