Esophageal Manometry

1 What is an Esophageal Manometry?

A test that shows if your esophagus – a long and muscular tube that connects your throat to your stomach – is working properly is called esophageal manometry.

This test measures the force exerted and coordination by the muscles of your esophagus and also measures the rhythmic muscle contractions that occur in your esophagus when you swallow.

A catheter that contains sensors will pass through your nose down your esophagus and into your stomach.

This test can also diagnose certain medical conditions or disorders that can affect your esophagus.

2 Reasons for Procedure

Here are the most common reasons to undergo esophageal manometry.

If you are experiencing symptoms that can be related to an esophageal disorder your doctor will suggest this test.

This test will measure how well the circular bands of muscle or sphincters at the top and bottom of your esophagus open and close, strength, pressure, the pattern of the wave of muscle contractions that is moving the food along, and will also provide information about the movement or motility of food.

Your doctor will order another test such as x-rays if you have symptoms like pain when swallowing (odynophagia) or difficulty swallowing (dysphagia).

These tests will rule out any obstruction in the esophagus such as narrowing, blockage or inflammation of an area.

This test may be used to help diagnose:

achalasia – this happens when your sphincter does not relax to let food enter your stomach and the muscles in the wall of your esophagus are weak. This can cause regurgitations of food back up your throat and difficulty swallowing.

Diffuse esophageal spasm – this is a swallowing problem that involves forceful, multiple, poorly coordinated muscle contractions of your esophagus.

Scleroderma – this is a rare progressive disease in which the muscles in the lower esophagus will stop to move that can lead to severe gastroesophageal reflux.

Your doctor may suggest esophageal manometry to ensure that you will not have spasm or achalasia if you are undergoing an anti-reflux surgery to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

This test will also be suggested by your doctor after an endoscopy to rule out GERD if you have chest pain and swallowing problems that are not related to your heart.

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3 Potential Risks

Esophageal manometry includes only rare risks such as:

  • watery eyes
  • gagging when the tube passes into your throat
  • discomfort in your throat and nose
  • slight nosebleed

You may also have some mild side effects after this test such as:

Irregular heartbeat, perforation or a hole in your esophagus, and inhaling stomach contents that flow back into your esophagus or aspiration are rare but severe complications of this test.

4 Preparing for your Procedure

Your doctor may advise you to avoid drinking and eating for a certain length of time in preparing for an esophageal manometry.

Write down all the medications, supplements and vitamins that you are taking.

5 What to Expect

Here you can find out what to expect from your esophageal manometry. This test is an outpatient procedure that can be done without sedation.

During the procedure:

  • a nurse will spray your throat with a numbing medication or a numbing gel in your nose or both while you are sitting up
  • a catheter will be put in your nose down your esophagus, you may gag a little and have watery eyes or a slight nosebleed from irritation
  • your doctor will ask you to lie on your back on a table or he will ask you to remain seated after the catheter is in place
  • you will then take small sips of water and as you do the computer that is attached to the catheter will record the strength, pressure and pattern of your esophageal muscle contractions
  • while the test is ongoing you will be asked to breathe slowly and smoothly and to remain still and swallow only when asked to
  • the nurse will continue to move the catheter down into your stomach while it continues its measurements
  • after this, the catheter will be removed slowly

This test lasts about 30 minutes. You may return to your normal activities when this test is complete.

6 Procedure Results

In one to two days the esophageal manometry result will be ready. This can help identify the cause of esophageal symptoms or can be part of a preoperative evaluation.

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