Esophageal Manometry

Esophageal manometry, also called motility testing, measures whether your esophagus is working the way it should. Your doctor might suggest this test if you have a problem with your esophagus.

When your esophagus works properly, it makes muscle contractions to push food to the stomach. Muscular valves (sphincters) at the top and bottom of the esophagus open and close. Problems with any of these functions can cause symptoms including trouble swallowing and food backing up in your throat.

In esophageal manometry, your doctor puts a thin, flexible tube (catheter) through your nose, down your esophagus and into your stomach. The tube has sensors on it to take measurements.

Why it is Done

You might need esophageal manometry if your doctor thinks you have an esophagus problem such as:

  • Achalasia – This occurs when the muscle (sphincter) in the lower esophagus doesn't relax enough to let food pass through to the stomach, and other muscles in the esophagus are weak. You have trouble swallowing, and food backs up into your throat (regurgitation).
  • A swallowing problem (dysphagia) – Most swallowing problems are caused by blockages and inflammation, and these conditions aren't diagnosed with manometry. One rare swallowing problem, diffuse esophageal spasm, is diagnosed with manometry.
  • Heartburn – A burning feeling in your chest.
  • Scleroderma – This is a rare disease that can cause the muscles in the lower esophagus to stop moving, causing severe gastroesophageal reflux (GERD).

What to Expect

  • You may be asked to not eat before your procedure or to eat only clear liquids. You also might need to avoid taking certain medications before esophageal manometry. Your doctor goes over these instructions with you.
  • Your doctor puts pain-relieving medication in your nose to make you more comfortable as the tube is inserted.
  • Your doctor puts a thin, flexible tube (catheter) through your nose, down your esophagus and into your stomach.
  • Because a tube is inserted through your nose, you might gag as the tube passes to your throat. This can cause your eyes to water or feel uncomfortable. Your nose might bleed a little during or after esophageal manometry.
  • The end of the tube sticking out of your nose is connected to a machine that measures the functions of your esophagus.
  • Your doctor asks you to swallow bits of water after the tube is in place to measure how your esophagus is working.
  • The test takes 30 to 60 minutes.
  • After esophageal manometry, your nose might feel stuffy and your throat might hurt.

What the Risks Are

Esophageal manometry is a safe procedure. Complications are rare but can include:

  • Aspiration – Breathing in contents from your stomach that have gotten into your esophagus
  • Perforation – A puncture or tear in your esophagus

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