Though many gastroesophageal reflux disease cases can be controlled by drugs that suppress acid, some reflux sufferers find no relief from over-the-counter or prescription medicines because acid isn’t a factor in their disorder.
To determine if a patient has acid versus non-acidic reflux, physicians can perform pH monitoring, a test that measures how often and for how long stomach acid enters the esophagus. This monitoring can now be combined with the use of impedance technology, which uses electrical currents to sense the movement of stomach contents upward into the esophagus.
Impedance technology involves the presence of tiny metal strips along the pH monitoring catheter, which is inserted through the nose to the bottom of the esophagus. Impedance sensors on the catheter can detect any changes in resistance in the esophagus when bolus (material from the stomach) enters the esophagus and disrupts the sensors’ electrical current.
Patients wear the catheter for 24 hours, and also carry a paging device electronically connected to the catheter’s sensors. When patients experience heartburn and other symptoms, they press a button on the device, which also collects impedance data when reflux actually does occur.
The next day, information from the pager is fed into a computer, and physicians can look for a correlation between the presence of symptoms and whether reflux occurred at the same time.
For a free referral to a gastroenterologist on staff at Houston Northwest Medical Center or for more information about the Heartburn Center, please call 281-580-0000.