Esophageal motility

What is an esophageal motility test?

An esophageal motility test shows whether your esophagus is working properly. This test provides information about the movement (motility) of food through the esophagus and into the stomach. The test measures how well the circular bands of muscle (sphincters) at the top and bottom of your esophagus open and close, as well as the pressure, strength and pattern of the wave of muscle contractions that move food along.

If you're considering undergoing anti-reflux surgery to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), your doctor may recommend esophageal motility to make sure you don't have achalasia or spasm, which GERD surgery can't help. If you have swallowing problems and chest pain unrelated to your heart, esophageal motility may be recommended after an endoscopy to rule out GERD.

Before the procedure, you may need to avoid eating and drinking for a certain length of time. Your doctor will give you specific instructions. Also, tell your doctor about any medications you're taking. You may be asked not to take some of them before the test.

During the procedure, your throat and nostril will first be numbed by a spray or gel medication. Then a thin, flexible tube (catheter) will be guided through your nostril and into your esophagus. You will then swallow small sips of water. As you do so, a computer connected to the catheter will record the pressure and pattern of your muscle contractions. You will need to breathe slowly and smoothly and remain as still as possible. The catheter will then slowly be withdrawn.

The procedure typically is completed within 30 minutes. You may return to your normal activities afterward.