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 - Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Chicago

Esophageal Diseases Tests & Procedures

Your doctor may conduct a number of diagnostic tests to determine the nature and severity of your esophageal disease, including:

  • Barium swallow radiograph— this test involves drinking a barium solution which will allow an X-ray image to spot abnormalities such as hiatal hernia or strictures (narrowing) in the esophagus or ulcers.

  • Upper endoscopy—this test may be performed in a doctor’s office, or in a hospital. Your doctor will lightly sedate you and numb your throat and slide a thin, flexible plastic tube with a light and a lens at the end of it (an endoscope) down your throat. This tiny camera lets the doctor see the surface of the esophagus, to confirm a diagnosis. The doctor may, if necessary, perform a biopsy using tiny tweezers (forceps) that are passed through the endoscope and allow the doctor to obtain small tissue samples from your esophagus. This may then be examined by a pathologist to determine if the tissues are abnormal.

  • Esophageal manometry—a thin, pressure-sensitive tube slowly passed back through your esophagus, designed to see if your esophagus is contracting and relaxing properly. Useful for diagnosing swallowing disorders.

  • pH monitoring examination: this test uses a small tube inserted in the esophagus for 24 to 48 hours that monitors how and when acid enters the esophagus, and, if used in conjunction with a food diary (a log indicating amounts of food eaten, what, and when), allows your doctor to find a correlation between symptoms and reflux. This test may be used to determine whether respiratory symptoms are caused by reflux.

  • Esophageal impedance—this test measures gas or liquids that may reflux into the esophagus, and is useful in helping assess regurgitation of non-acidic substances. It is delivered by means of a catheter.

Last UpdateJanuary 20, 2012