There are a number of tests that are used to diagnose Acid Reflux / GERD, hiatal hernia, Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal cancer. These vary depending on the circumstances of the patient. The physician at the Heartburn Center of California discusses the options and reasoning behind their recommendation with the patient. In brief, the options are:
- Upper GI Series or X-ray of Upper Digestive System: The patient drinks a liquid that coats the upper digestive tract, which is picked up by the X-ray, allowing the radiologist to see the digestive system more clearly. The test can show GERD related issues, such as a hiatal hernia or narrowing of the esophagus.
- Endoscopy: The patient has an endoscope (small flexible tube with camera and light) inserted down their throat to inspect the esophagus, stomach and duodenum (the first section of the small intestine). In order to facilitate the procedure and make the patient comfortable, they are sedated. The doctor is then able to view the upper GI (gastrointestinal tract) for any abnormalities and may elect to biopsy (take small tissue samples) to test for various ailments.
- Bravo Esophageal pH Monitoring: One of the best means to test for GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). A small device about the size of a gel cap is lowered into the esophagus during an upper endoscopy and attached to the esophageal wall. The device monitors pH levels in the esophagus and wirelessly transmits the data to a small receiver that the patient wears. The patient can go about normal activities and after 48 hours, the device dislodges itself and passes safely through the patient’s system. The data is then downloaded from the device to a computer for analysis
- Esophageal Manometry: This tests the strength and coordination of the muscles associated with the esophagus and is important when determining if surgery is a good option for GERD. A thin tube is swallowed by the patient that measures the muscle contractions in the esophagus.