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Diagnostic Testing
pH Study

pH Monitoring Study

Endoscopy Procedures (Digestive System)

What is the test?

A pH study is used to determine the amount of acid in your esophagus (the swallowing tube that connects the back of your throat and your stomach). Your doctor may order a pH study to help diagnose gastroesophageal reflux disease (also known as GERD or chronic heartburn). Traditionally pH levels have been monitored with a catheter that is placed down the patient’s nose and into the esophagus. This was uncomfortable and many patients found it embarrassing to go out with the catheter in their noses. Cayuga Medical Center has a state-of-the-art monitoring system that is much more comfortable and patient-friendly, which utilizes a miniature capsule to measure your pH levels over a 48-hour period.

How do I prepare?

You should discontinue acid-blocking medications for GERD for up to one week prior to the exam, so be sure to discuss this with your physician. Since you will be under mild sedation during a brief procedure, you must bring a friend or family member to drive you home after the exam. If you are using taxi or bus service for transportation, a friend or family member must accompany you. Sedation can make people forgetful, so plan the rest of your day accordingly.

What can I expect during the procedure?

Please plan to check in at Outpatient Registration 30 minutes prior to your procedure. When you arrive in the Endoscopy Department, a nurse will greet you and take your health history and blood pressure, and the doctor will answer any questions you have about the procedure. You may receive an intravenous sedative to make you drowsy. The physician will then introduce the pH capsule through your mouth and advance it slowly into the esophagus, where the capsule will be attached (clipped) to the wall of your esophagus. The procedure itself lasts 5 to 20 minutes, and you should plan to spend a total of 1-2 hours in the medical center.

The pH capsule contains a small radio that transmits data to a pager-sized receiver you wear on your belt or waistband, just like a pager or mobile phone. You will be given a diary in which to write down the times when you have reflux symptoms (i.e. coughing, heartburn, regurgitation) when eating or when lying down.

You may be aware of sensation in your chest; some patients describe it as a tugging sensation. You may feel the capsule when you eat or drink. If you experience this, chewing carefully and drinking sufficient liquids may help minimize the sensation.

How and when will I get my test results?

Once the capsule is placed and you are fully awake, your companion can drive you home. You may eat normally and go about your daily routine. After the test period (usually 48 hours), you will go back to the medical center to return your diary and the receiver. The nurse will download the collected data into a computer, where the information can be evaluated by a gastroenterologist, who will call you with the results of the study in a few days. Several days after the test, the capsule naturally falls off the wall of the esophagus, passes through your digestive tract, is eliminated from the body, and flushed away. (As a precaution, however, you should not undergo an MRI study within 30 days of pH capsule monitoring.)

Where is the test performed?

PH monitoring is performed at Cayuga Medical Center at 101 Dates Drive, off NYS Route 96 in Ithaca.

 

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