Esophageal function studies

Alternative names
Esophageal motility studies; Esophageal manometry

Definition

Esophageal manometry is a test to measure the motor action of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) and esophageal body. A catheter is used to measure esophageal pressure and records the duration and sequence of contractions in the esophagus.

How the test is performed

A thin tube is passed through your mouth or nose and into your stomach, then the tube is pulled slowly back into the esophagus.

Pressure measurements may be taken at intervals along the tube. The outer end of the tube is attached to an instrument called a transducer that will record the pressure.

The transducer records the high pressure zone of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the sphincter muscle that acts as a valve to prevent reflux of gastric acid into the esophagus.

When the tube is in the esophagus, you will be asked to swallow. The swallowing wave will be recorded.

While the tube is in place, other studies of your esophagus may be done. The tube is removed after the tests are completed.

How to prepare for the test

You should not consume any food or fluid for 8 hours before the procedure.

Infants and children:
The preparation you can provide for this test depends on your child’s age, previous experiences, and level of trust. For general information regarding how you can prepare your child, see the following topics:

     
  • Infant test/procedure preparation (birth to 1 year)  
  • Toddler test/procedure preparation (1 to 3 years)  
  • Preschooler test/procedure preparation (3 to 6 years)  
  • Schoolage test/procedure preparation (6 to 12 years)  
  • Adolescent test/procedure preparation (12 to 18 years)

How the test will feel
You may experience a gagging sensation when the tube is inserted.

Why the test is performed
The purpose of esophageal manometry is to measure LES pressure and evaluate esophageal contractions. This is important in the evaluation of swallowing disorders.

Normal Values

The LES pressure is normal and relaxes during a swallow. The pattern of muscle contractions is systematic and coordinated during a swallow.

What abnormal results mean

Abnormal results may indicate the following:

     
  • Achalasia (a failure of LES relaxation, causing the esophagus to become dilated and filled with retained food)  
  • Diffuse esophageal spasm  
  • Lack of muscle coordination

Your health care provider may request that this test be performed if you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

What the risks are

The presence of the tube in the esophagus may cause increased salivation, increasing the risk for aspiration. Aspiration involves saliva or gastric acid being inhaled into the lungs instead of being swallowed properly. This can lead to lung injury or aspiration pneumonia.

In general, people with swallowing difficulty are at higher risk for aspiration.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 6, 2012
by Dave R. Roger, M.D.

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