Your doctor may already discover in the reporting of your symptoms an acid reflux/heartburn diagnosis. He will assuredly back this up with corresponding diagnostic tests and exams. The doctor can examine your esophagus by x-ray or by endoscopy, which is a visual examination of an organ which in this case will be your esophagus with the use of thin and long flexible tube introduced orally.
Your physician may also suggest a pH probe study of your esophagus that lasts a whole 24 hours particularly if you exhibit signs and symptoms such as asthmatic signs, coughing or stomach, chest or throat pain. This pH probe study test will entail the use of a narrow and long elastic tube introduced into the nose down to the esophagus with the probe left in the esophagus for 24 hours. The probe measures levels of your stomach acid to see if it jibes with your symptoms. A new pH probe procedure called Bravo also detects your acid levels for 24 hours but instead of using a wire it uses wireless pH sensors. If the doctor suspects your heart as the cause of your symptoms, he may suggest an electrocardiogram (ECG), to record your heart’s electrical activity.
There are people who suffer from GERD that may seem unresponsive to treatments. Sometimes other patients may exhibit black stools, anemia, swallowing difficulty or weight loss apart from their GERD symptoms. These patients may require some of the following tests to be diagnosed for GERD.
Esophageal Impedance Monitoring – A doctor or a specialist usually a gastroenterologist will be interested in seeing how your esophagus looks and functions. He can then suggest an esophageal impedance monitoring test that will be combined with manometry.
A manometry tube equipped with electrodes is used on you that determine the rate gases and liquids pass through your esophagus. The findings from this test will enable the doctor to analyze how effective your esophageal contractions are in conveying foods and other materials from your esophagus into your abdomen.
pH Monitoring – This aforementioned test utilizes a pH sensor that is forced inside your lower esophagus and left there for 24 hours. The device is also attached to a recording device located out of your body. The doctor may instruct you to keep a diary to record any acid reflux occurrences while or after you have drank or eaten. You are required to push a button whenever you experience an episode of acid reflux. The recording device and your diary will provide your doctor with valuable information to appraise and decipher your test data.
These days, a wireless kind of pH test is used. Instead of a wired sensor, a wireless pH sensor is introduced to your lower esophagus via a suction method. The sensor then sends data back electronically to a recording gadget outside your body for 2 whole days. When the sensor passes its usefulness, it falls off and gets out of the body via the digestive system process. This wireless kind of pH testing is much preferred by patients since it is far less invasive compared to the older style of testing; both tests yield similar information anyway.
Esophageal Manometry – This diagnostic test assesses the functionality of your esophagus. It likewise analyzes the functionality of your esophageal sphincter to see if it is working normally. For this test, the doctor or specialist will apply a topical anesthetic to the inside of your nose while you are in a sitting position. After your nose becomes numb, a pliable and narrow tube will be inserted into your nose going to your esophagus and down to your stomach.
When the tube reaches the stomach, the doctor will let you lie on your left side. Then the probes in the tube will start measuring the ongoing pressure on different regions in your stomach and esophagus. To better rate the pressure in those areas, the doctor will make you drink some sips of fluids. The probes will measure contractions in the esophageal muscles as the fluid goes down your stomach.
This test often lasts about 20 to 30 minutes.
Endoscopy or EGD – EGD is less known by its full name, esophagogastroduodenoscopy which is quite a handful to say. During this test, the doctor introduces a flexible, thin tube that contains a very small camera into the mouth going to the esophagus all the way to the stomach. The camera enables the doctor to view the esophageal and stomach linings.
Prior to inserting the endoscope into the mouth, the doctor will give you a mild anesthetic spray or sedative to make the procedure less discomforting and make you feel a little bit relaxed.
An esophagogastroduodenoscopy procedure usually takes about 20 minutes and your ability to breathe will not be affected during the procedure. This test can effectively detect certain GERD complications particularly Barrett’s esophagus. Fortunately, just half of people suffering from acid reflux will show changes to their esophageal lining.
Biopsy – A biopsy may be done on you if the doctor sees a likelihood of esophageal cancer based on your EGD test. In a biopsy, the doctor or gastroenterologist will insert a small surgical instrument via the scope to extract a small tissue lining of your esophagus. The tissue is sent to a lab for assessment to see if the tissue is positive for esophageal cancer or other complications.
Barium Swallow Radiograph – If your doctor wants to make sure your acid reflux disease is not due to any structural problems in your esophagus, he may deem using barium swallow radiograph as a good way to do it. A barium swallow radiograph is an x-ray type of test and is a painless procedure. During this test, you will be required to swallow a barium solution. The solution enables the doctor to perform X-rays of your esophagus. This technique is not really a 100% way of accurately diagnosing GERD because only about a third of those who have GERD have changes to the esophagus that can be detected by x-ray.
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