Digestive Care

Esophageal pH Test

A valve at the bottom of the esophagus (between the stomach and esophagus) sometimes lets stomach acid splash up into the esophagus causing heartburn. Frequent heartburn damages the esophagus and may lead to cancer. The Esophageal pH study measures how frequently the acid in the stomach splashes back into the esophagus over a 24-hour period.

Reasons for the Exam
Alternatives
Preparation Before the Procedure
Day of the Procedure
Possible Complications

Reasons for the Exam:

1. Evaluate the cause of symptoms (i.e., swallowing difficulty, heartburn, chest pain).
2. Determine if treatments are effective.

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Alternative Tests:

1. Esophagogastroduodenoscopy or Upper GI Endoscopy.
2. Barium Swallow.

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Preparation Before the Procedure:
Your physician will give instructions about the procedure and any preparation before the procedure. Make sure you understand them. Generally, no food or drink eight hours before the procedure is allowed. If you take prescription or over-the-counter drugs, it is important that you ask your physician several days before the test what drugs you can or cannot continue to take before the procedure.  [Back to the top]

Day of the Procedure:
The procedure time is about 10 to 15 minutes. The patient is placed on a bed lying on his side. A topical anesthetic agent is applied to the back of the throat. Then a soft, thin tube is passed through the nose into the esophagus. The tube is secured by taping it to the nose. The longest part of the tube coming from the nose is attached to a recorder that is clipped to the patient's belt. The patient may resume normal activity after the tube is placed. The recorder is worn on the patient's waist for 24 hours. The recorder provides the physician with documentation on the degree, duration, frequency and acidity of the fluid splashing back into the esophagus. In addition, you will be instructed by your physician or nurse to keep a 24-hour diary (a recording of all fluid and food intake, along with any symptoms that may develop).  [Back to the top]

Side Effects and Complications:
There are usually no side effects or complications.  [Back to the top]