How is gastroesophageal reflux disease diagnosed?
A detailed history taking is vital to the diagnosis. Useful investigations may include barium swallow X-rays, esophageal manometry, esophageal pH monitoring and Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD). In general, an EGD is done when the patient does not respond well to treatment, has had symptoms or required medications for a prolonged time (generally 5 years), has dysphagia, anemia, blood in the stool (detected chemically), has weight loss, or has changes in the voice.
Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) (a form of endoscopy) involves the insertion of a thin scope through the mouth and throat into the esophagus and stomach (often while the patient is sedated) in order to assess the internal surface of the esophagus, stomach and duodenum. Endoscopy may confirm the diagnosis if the doctor finds that the person has esophagitis or Barrett's esophagus. Endoscopy also helps to exclude the presence of esophageal cancer. X-rays taken after a person drinks a barium solution and then lies on an incline with the head lower than the feet may show reflux of the barium from the stomach into the esophagus. A doctor may press on the abdomen to increase the likelihood of reflux. The x-rays taken after the barium is swallowed also can reveal esophageal ulcers or a narrowed esophagus.
Biopsies of the esophagus that are obtained through the endoscope are not very useful for diagnosing GERD. They are useful, however, in diagnosing cancers or causes of esophageal inflammation other than acid reflux, particularly infections. Moreover, biopsies are the only means of diagnosing the cellular changes of Barrett's esophagus.
Ambulatory pH monitoring is generally considered the diagnostic gold standard for use in patients with GERD. In this study, a pH monitor is placed in the esophagus above the lower esophageal sphincter, and the pH is recorded at given moments in time. Over the 24-hour test period, the patient writes down the time and situation in which symptoms occur, in the hope that symptoms can be correlated with the lowering of esophageal pH that occurs with reflux.
Esophageal pH monitoring may not be available in some areas. Furthermore, the test is time-consuming, and it can be inconvenient or troublesome for the patient. In addition, pH monitoring requires good technical placement of the probe and experienced interpretation of the results.
More information on gastroesophageal reflux disease (acid reflux, GERD)
What is gastroesophageal reflux disease (acid reflux)? - Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition in which stomach contents, including acid, back up (reflux) into the esophagus, causing inflammation and damage to the esophagus.
What causes gastroesophageal reflux disease? - Gastroesophageal reflux disease is often the result of conditions that affect the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). Dietary and lifestyle choices may contribute to GERD.
What are the symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease? - Heartburn, also called acid indigestion, is the most common symptom of reflux. The most common symptoms in children are repeated vomiting, coughing, and other respiratory problems.
What're the complications of gastroesophageal reflux disease? - Chronic gastroesophageal reflux disease can lead to a number of serious problems, such as bleeding ulcers in the esophagus, and scarring leading to narrowing of the esophagus.
How is gastroesophageal reflux disease diagnosed? - Useful diagnosing methods include barium swallow X-rays, esophageal manometry, esophageal pH monitoring and EGD.
What're the treatments for gastroesophageal reflux disease? - Doctors recommend lifestyle and dietary changes for most people with GERD. Lifestyle modifications are a key component in the management of GERD and should be incorporated into all treatment stages.
What GERD medications treat gastroesophageal reflux disease? - Antacids remain the drugs of choice for quick relief of symptoms associated with GERD. H2-Receptor blockers are indicated for the prevention and relief of heartburn, acid indigestion and sour stomach.
What surgery treats gastroesophageal reflux disease? - Surgery is indicated for a small group of patients with GERD. The standard surgical treatment, sometimes preferred over longtime use of medication, is the Nissen fundoplication.
How to prevent gastroesophageal reflux disease with lifestyle? - A correct life style is effective to prevent the symptoms of GERD. Avoid foods that promote opening of the esophageal sphincter and increase acid reflux.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease in infants and children - Infants are more likely to have the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) relax when it should remain shut. Infants are easier for the stomach contents to reflux up into the esophagus.
What is hiatal hernia? - A hiatal hernia is named for the hiatus, an opening in the diaphragm between your chest and your stomach. There are two types of hiatal hernias.