Most people have experienced the occasional acid reflux after a heavy meal or when lying down with a burning sensation in the chest (heartburn) that may spread up to the throat leaving a sour taste in the mouth. If you experience these symptoms regularly (at least twice a week), you may be suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disease. Over time, the back flow of stomach acid can irritate the esophageal lining resulting in open sores, scar formation, and even precancerous changes.
The 24-hour pH study is one of the most important diagnostic tools that helps your doctor confirm a diagnosis of GERD and determine the severity of the condition. It may also be used to test the effectiveness of treatment in reducing acid reflux.
In preparation for the test, you will have to avoid acid-regulation medication and fast for about 6 hours prior to the procedure. During the procedure, a small probe is inserted into your nostril and positioned near your esophagus. The probe is connected to a small monitoring device that can be fixed to your belt or worn over your shoulder. You continue your daily routine while the probe remains in position for 24 hours. You are not allowed to take a bath to avoid getting the equipment wet. The monitoring device allows you to record the times when you have symptoms, when you lie down, and when you eat. After 24 hours, the probe will be removed from your esophagus and your monitoring device will be studied. The results of the study will be discussed at your next appointment.
Most people can manage GERD symptoms with over-the-counter medications and lifestyle changes. For more complicated conditions, prescription medications or surgery might be necessary. However, the first step towards recovery is to make an accurate diagnosis, which is where a 24-hour pH study can play a very significant role.