What is an Acid Reflux Test?

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  • Written By: C. Adams
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 10 October 2019
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The acid reflux test, also called the esophageal pH Test, is a 24-hour test that monitors acid levels flowing between the stomach and the esophagus. It is a painless procedure that uses a probe and a monitor to record acid levels during a patient's normal daily activities. Physicians use this test to look for specific conditions such as heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Test results also may be used to measure the effectiveness of current prescribed treatments for acid-related conditions.

Patients are fitted with a small probe that accesses the lower esophagus through the nose. The probe attaches to a monitor that the patient can secure to clothing, making it more convenient to wear for the 24-hour testing period. During daily activities, the patient presses a button on the monitor to record acid levels. Important acid level measurements during such activities as lying down or eating can help doctors either diagnose a condition or assess the effectiveness of treatments for existing conditions.

For some patients, the testing probe may cause too much discomfort. In this case, doctors may choose an alternative technique that involves inserting a capsule into the esophagus. Doctors attach the capsule, called a Bravo pH capsule, by securing it to the esophageal lining. The capsule transmits information to a receiver through radio waves, recording acid levels much like the probe and monitor test. The capsule dissolves and is expelled from the patient's body within about two days.


Before the procedure takes place, patients should discuss with their physician any current medications they are taking. Some drugs may be fine to take during testing or even be required, as in the case of assessing the effectiveness of prescription acid reflux medications, for example. Others, however, can inadvertently skew test results, such as over-the-counter antacids, ulcer medications such as omeprazole, or heart medications such as isosorbide.

To prepare for the procedure, patients typically are asked not to eat or drink for six hours before the acid reflux test. If a patient is pregnant, allergic to any medications or has heart or lung disease, he or she should inform the physician before the test. During the test, the patient performs their normal daily activities, being careful not to get the monitor wet when bathing or showering. Patients typically are asked to record information to the acid reflux test monitor while eating, drinking and lying down.

Results from the acid reflux test are used to help physicians diagnose acid-related conditions and to determine proper treatments. Doctors may even suggest dietary changes as part of an overall treatment regimen. Some patients may experience discomfort after the procedure, generally due to the test probe or the disposable capsule. These effects are generally mild and temporary. Doctors typically recommend a sore throat lozenge to help ease any painful side effects.


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