Diagnosis of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can cause many painful symptoms in a sufferer such as a feeling of pain in the chest area, difficulty swallowing, a feeling of food trapped in ones throat, hoarseness upon rising, a sensation of choking, bad breath that does not seem to go away no matter what you do and a persistent dry, hacking cough. Lets look at ways that this condition is diagnosed.

A great deal of the time a doctor will prescribe a series of acid-suppressive drugs to help those suffering from heartburn on a trial basis to see if it does the trick. If this is not enough to make a proper diagnosis of GERD then other medical tests will need to be undertaken.


One of the common tests for GERD is an upper endoscopy (which is also referred to as esophagogastroduodenoscopy or abbreviated simply to EGD). With this medical procedure the doctor uses an instrument called an endoscope to take a close look at the inside of a persons esophagus as well as their stomach and duodenum (or the beginning of the small intestine).

The endoscope e resembles a thin, lighted tube that is flexible to move around. Using this the doctor can easily view both the walls of the stomach as well as the tissue that lines the upper part of the digestive tract. Often a doctor will choose to do a biopsy of the esophagus or stomach in order to rule out cancer as a source of heartburn.

Esophageal PH

Another procedure that is commonly undertaken is the 24-hour esophageal PH monitor examination. This test can be somewhat uncomfortable for a patient but it is routinely done using a thin, plastic tube with a sensor attached to the end of it. This procedure helps to measure how much acid is being “refluxed” into the esophagus and how fast it is coming. Let us look closer at this procedure.

To begin the procedure the doctor must delicately insert a tube through the patients nose and the patient must allow it to go down his throat until it goes into the esophagus. As the name suggests, the test spans a 24-hour period of time. The tube is connected to a box that resembles a Walkman and it takes measurements of how long and for what length of time it takes acid from the stomach to make its way to the esophagus.

The patient is responsible to keep a record of his symptoms and record them. After the 24-hour period is up, the data that the monitor has compiled is analyzed, paying close attention to the frequency and severity of the symptoms. The PH monitoring examination is often used for patients who have regular heartburn symptoms but show a normal exam with the endoscopy ands whom are not helped by acid-suppressive therapy.


Barium x-rays are sometimes used for heartburn sufferers if they show certain symptoms. The patient is given a liquid with barium in it to drink and this serves to coat the walls of both the stomach and the esophagus. X-rays are then done to help look for such things as hiatus hernias, ulcers, erosions or strictures. Sometimes it is easy to see how the esophagus empties itself of food and liquids from a barium x-ray. Be aware that barium x-rays are not very good at diagnosing GERD on their own and are often combined with other types of medical procedures for a proper diagnosis.

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