The esophagus is the tube that connects your throat to your stomach. Muscle in the wall of the esophagus contracts to push food down to your stomach. A sphincter (muscle) at the lower end of the esophagus remains closed except when food or liquid is swallowed or when you belch or vomit. Your physician has recommended esophageal manometry to help provide you with appropriate care.
What is esophageal manometry and why is it performed?
This test measures the pressures and the pattern of muscle contractions in your esophagus. 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.
How should I prepare for this test?
An empty stomach allows for the best and safest examination, so do not eat or drink anything after midnight the night before the test. Since many medications can affect esophageal pressure and the natural muscle contractions required for swallowing, be sure to discuss with your healthcare professional each medication you are taking. Your doctor may ask that you temporarily stop taking one or more medications before your test.
What can I expect during the test?
A healthcare professional will apply a cream to numb the inside of your nostrils. Then a thin, flexible, lubricated tube will be passed through your nose and into your stomach. Some patients may gag while the tube is passed through their throat. It may help to swallow sips of water as the tip of the tube is advanced and placed at the lower part of the esophagus. When the tube is in position, you will be sitting or lying on your side or back. 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, a computer measures and records the pressures in different parts of your esophagus. During the test, you may experience some discomfort in your nose and/or throat. The test will take approximately 45 minutes to complete and the results will be sent to your doctor’s office.
What can I expect after the test?
After the test, you may experience a sore throat, which typically improves within a day. You may also experience a stuffy nose or a minor nosebleed, which will also go away within 24 hours. Unless your physician has given you other instructions, you may resume normal meals, activities, and any interrupted medications.
What are the possible risks associated with esophageal manometry?
As with any medical procedure, there are certain risks. While serious side effects of this procedure are 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.
What if the tube cannot be passed?
In some situations, correct placement of the tube may require passage through the mouth or insertion using endoscopy (a procedure that uses a thin, flexible lighted tube). Your physician will determine the best approach.
Reprinted from the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE).