If you suffer from acid reflux, heartburn, chest pain and other symptoms of GERD (gastrointestinal reflux disorder), your doctor may suggest that you have a pH test to determine the degree of acidity or alkalinity of your esophagus. A pH test measures acidity by determining:
- How often stomach acid moves up into the lower esophagus
- Degree of acidity during the test period
In the past, pH testing involved a catheter, but the Bravo pH Monitoring System is the first catheter-free monitoring system. A capsule with a miniature pH sensor transmits data via radio telemetry signals to a receiver that is worn on your waist. The capsule is inserted into your esophagus, which is then monitored for 24 to 48 hours. You can do all your normal activities like eating, sleeping, showering and exercising.
What Happens before the Procedure?
Your doctor will show you the device and its features so you will know what to expect. The device includes two components:
- A capsule (about the size of a gel cap) that records the pH of your esophagus
- A receiver that receives the transmitted messages from the capsule and records data.
The Day of the Procedure
Do not eat or drink anything after midnight unless your doctor provides you with different instructions.
The procedure will be performed at a clinic, endoscopy lab or ambulatory surgery center. There are different techniques of placing the capsule in the esophagus, but often endoscopy is performed. After your doctor has placed the capsule, suction is applied to draw some tissue into the capsule. Your doctor will lock the capsule into place, and you should not feel discomfort or pain. You will wear the small receiver (about the size of a pager) on your belt or waistband, which has three symptom buttons: heartburn, regurgitation and chest pain.
What Happens during the Test?
When the capsule is fully attached, it will begin measuring the pH levels in your esophagus. The measurements are transmitted to the receiver at your waist. When you feel any heartburn regurgitation or chest pain, you will push the corresponding button.
You will need to keep record of all periods of eating and sleeping during the test in a diary.
What Happens after the Test?
When the specified period of the test is complete, you will return the receiver and the diary. Your doctor will upload the information from the receiver and analyze the results. The information from the receiver will help your doctor diagnose GERD and the appropriate treatment, if necessary. There is no need to remove the capsule from your esophagus. It will automatically detach and move through your digestive system a few days after the test.
The Bravo pH Monitoring System is not appropriate for everyone. You should avoid this test if you have:
- A pacemaker
- Implantable cardiac defibrillator
- Abnormal bleeding or a clotting disorder
- Severe esophagitis
- Varices (swollen blood vessels on the lining of the esophagus)
- Obstruction of the digestive tract
- MRI testing scheduled within 30 days of the Bravo pH test
Although the Bravo pH test is safe and only available by prescription, there are a few potential complications such as:
- Premature detachment of the pH capsule
- Failure of pH capsule to detach within several days after placement
- Discomfort with placement of the pH capsule
- Tears in the lining of the esophagus, which may require surgery