How the esophagus works:

The muscular tube connecting your throat to your stomach is called your esophagus. Each time you swallow, your esophageal muscles contract in a coordinated manner to push food or liquid into your stomach. At the lower end of your esophagus, a valve (special sphincter muscle)remains closed except when food or liquid is swallowed or when you belch or vomit.

What is esophageal manometry and why is it performed?

Esophageal manometry measures the pressures and the pattern of muscle contraction in your esophagus. When there are abnormalities in the contractions and strength of the muscle or in the sphincter at the lower end of the esophagus, pain, heartburn, and/or difficulty swallowing can occur. Esophageal manometry is used to diagnose the conditions causing these symptoms.

How should I prepare for esophageal manometry?

Esophageal manometry requires an empty stomach. Your doctor will provide you with instructions on when to stop eating and drinking fluids prior to your test.

It is important to notify your doctor of all medications you are taking including over-the-counter medications. Since many medications can affect esophageal pressure and the natural muscle contractions for swallowing, your doctor may have you temporarily stop taking one or more medications prior to your test.

What can I expect during the test?

Esophageal manometry is performed at the local hospital. A healthcare professional will apply a cream to numb the inside of your nostrils. A thin, flexible, lubricated tube will be passed through your nose and advanced into your stomach while you swallow sips of water. You may experience mild, brief gagging while the tube is passed through your throat. Once 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 and remain as quiet as possible. You may be given sips of water or asked to swallow during the test. It is important to try not to swallow during the test unless instructed to do so. As the tube is slowly pulled out of your esophagus, the computer will measure and record the pressures in different parts of your esophagus.

The test usually takes approximately thirty (30) minutes to perform and you may experience some discomfort in your nose or throat during that time.

What can I expect after the test?

After the test, you may have a mild sore throat, stuffy nose, or a minor nosebleed. These symptoms generally improve within hours. Unless instructed otherwise, you may resume normal activities, meals, and medications.

What are the risks of esophageal manometry?

Serious side effects of this procedure are extremely rare. However, it is possible to experience the following:

  • irregular heartbeats
  • aspiration (stomach contents flow back into the esophagus and are breathed into the lungs)
  • perforation (a hole in the esophagus)
  • tube may be directed into the windpipe before being repositioned

Your doctor will discuss any risks and procedure benefits with you prior to the exam.

What if the tube cannot be passed?

If the tube cannot be passed using the above means, the doctor may choose to use an endoscope (a thin, flexible lighted tube) to assist with correct placement of the tube. Your doctor will discuss all options with you to determine the best approach.