Esophageal Manometry is a test that shows the functionality of the esophagus. It measures the rhythmic muscle contractions that occur in the esophagus when one swallows. Abnormalities in the contractions and strength of the muscle or in the sphincter, at the lower end of the esophagus, can result in pain, heartburn and/or difficulty swallowing. This test is used to diagnose the conditions that can cause these symptoms.
The esophagus is the tube that carries food and liquids from the throat to the stomach. Although it appears to be a simple organ, the esophagus is not rigid. The wall contains muscle that rhythmically contracts when you swallow. This allows the passage of the food and liquid to be carried down the esophagus to the stomach. Another important part of the esophagus is the lower valve muscle (LES). This is a specialized muscle that remains closed most of the time, it only opens to allow the food and liquids to move down the esophagus or when the patient belches or vomits. This muscle protects the lower part of the esophagus from caustic stomach acid and bile. These substances can cause heartburn and over time can lead to damage and scarring in the esophagus. There are a number of symptoms that originate in the esophagus. These include difficulty swallowing food or liquid, heartburn, and chest pain. Additionally, an x-ray (barium swallow or upper GI series) or endoscopy may show abnormalities that need to be studied further by manometry.
What to Expect
The procedure will take about an hour to complete. While seated in a chair or lying on your side, thin soft tubing is gently passed through the nose, and sometimes the mouth. Upon swallowing, the tip of the tube enters the esophagus and the technician then quickly passes it down to the desired level. There is usually some slight gagging but this is controlled by either dry or wet swallowing. Pressure recordings are made and the tubing is then removed. Patients can resume their regular activities including eating and drinking.