Esophageal manometry, also called motility testing, measures whether the esophagus is working properly. The esophagus should make muscle contractions to push food down to the stomach. Muscular valves (sphincters) at the top and bottom of the esophagus open to let food through, and close to keep it from coming back up. Problems with any of these functions can cause symptoms including trouble swallowing and food backing up into the throat (regurgitation).
Problems that can be detected with esophageal manometry include:
- Achalasia: This is when the muscle (sphincter) in the lower esophagus doesn’t relax enough to let food pass through to the stomach, and when other muscles in the esophagus are weak. It causes trouble swallowing and regurgitation.
- Diffuse esophageal spasm (DES): While some swallowing problems (dysphagia) are caused by blockages and inflammation and aren’t diagnosed with manometry, this rare swallowing problem occurs when normal contractions of the esophagus become irregular.
- Heartburn is a burning feeling in the chest, usually after eating, that happens when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus because the muscle (sphincter) in the lower esophagus doesn’t close properly.