Esophageal Manometry (Esophageal Motility Study)

  • Medical Author:
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

What limitations are there to the use of esophageal manometry?

There are several situations in which esophageal manometry may not demonstrate the esophageal abnormality that is responsible for a patient's problem. For example, many patients with GERD have transient (coming and going infrequently), but prolonged relaxation (minutes rather than seconds) of the lower sphincter, as the cause of their reflux. Such relaxations may be missed in the short period during which the manometric study is being conducted. Similarly, if a patient is having infrequent episodes of chest pain due to esophageal spasm, for example, every few days or weeks, the spasm may not be seen during a short manometric study. There have been attempts to get around these problems by using portable equipment and prolonged manometry for two or more days.

What are the side-effects of esophageal manometry?

Although esophageal manometry is uncomfortable, the procedure is minimally painful because the nostril through which the tube is inserted is anesthetized. Once the tube is in place, patients talk and breathe normally. The side-effects of esophageal manometry are minor and include mild sore throat, nosebleeds, and, uncommonly, sinus problems due to irritation and blockage of the ducts leading from the sinuses and into the nose. Occasionally, during insertion, the tube may enter the larynx (voice box) and cause choking. When this happens, the problem usually is recognized immediately, and the tube is rapidly removed. Care must be used in passing the tube in patients who are unable to easily swallow on command because without a swallow to relax the upper esophageal sphincter the tube often doesn't enter the esophagus but instead may enter the larynx.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/1/2016

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