Esophageal testing or manometry measures the pressures and the pattern of muscle contractions in your esophagus. The esophagus is a muscular tube that connects your throat to your stomach. With each swallow, the esophagus muscle contracts and pushes food into the stomach. At the lower end of the esophagus, a valve (a special sphincter muscle) remains closed except when food or liquid is swallowed or when you belch or vomit. Abnormalities in the contractions and strength of the muscle or in the sphincter at the lower end of the esophagus can result in pain, heartburn, and/or difficulty swallowing. Esophageal manometry is used to diagnose the conditions that can cause these symptoms.
During the procedure your nostril will be numbed with a special cream. Then a thin, flexible, lubricated tube will be passed through your nose and into your stomach while you swallow sips of water. Mild, brief gagging may occur while the tube is passed through the throat. When the tube is in position, you will be sitting upright or lying on your back while the tube is connected to a computer. Once the test begins it is important to breathe slowly and smoothly, remain as quiet as possible and avoid swallowing unless instructed to do so. As the tube is slowly pulled out of your esophagus, the computer measures and records the pressures in different parts of your esophagus.
After the test, you may experience mild sore throat, stuffy nose, or a minor nosebleed; all usually resolve within hours. It is important that you follow all of your doctor’s instructions for before and after the procedure.
As with any medical procedure, there are certain risks. While serious side effects of this procedure are extremely rare, it is possible that you could experience irregular heartbeats, aspiration (when stomach contents flow back into the esophagus and are breathed into the lung), or perforation (a hole in the esophagus). During insertion, the tube may be misdirected into the windpipe before being repositioned. Precautions are taken to prevent such risks, and your physician believes the risks are outweighed by the benefits of this test.
In some situations, correct placement of the tube may require passage through the mouth or passing the tube using endoscopy (a procedure that uses a thin, flexible lighted tube). Your physician will determine the best approach.