Diagnosis of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
Michael Jubinville, MPH
The doctor may suspect GER based on symptoms and health history. If heartburn has been bothersome, your doctor may give you medicine to try out. It will lower the amount of acid the stomach makes. If they work for you, they can help with a diagnosis.
If you're still having problems or the medicine doesn't help, other tests may be needed.
Endoscopy and Biopsy
Endoscopy lets the doctor see the esophageal lining. A thin, lighted tube with a tiny camera is passed down the throat. The doctor will be able to see problems or changes during this test.
A biopsy helps look for any changes in the cells. Samples are taken and looked at in a lab. This can help find inflammation, cancer, or other problems.
A 24-hour pH monitoring system is the best way to confirm acid reflux. A small tube is passed through the nose or mouth and into the stomach. The tube stays in place for 24 hours. It tracks the amount and timing of acid that backs up from the stomach. The doctor reviews the data, along with a diary. The diary will track what you eat and what activity you’re doing. A pattern may be seen. This will help find the cause of your problems.
Sometimes, a capsule is placed into the esophagus. It sends data to a monitor worn outside the body. The capsule will break off and pass through the intestines.
Upper GI Series
An upper GI is a series of x-rays. A barium solution makes digestive structures easier to see. The series may show a hiatal hernia, ulcers, or an esophageal stricture.
This test can be done in a doctor's office. A tube is passed through the mouth into the esophagus. The tube measures the pressure made by the muscles in the esophagus.
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Last reviewed May 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Daus Mahnke, MD
Last Updated: 8/20/2018
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