Esophageal pH testing, or the Bernstein Test (esophageal acid perfusion test), is part of a test called esophageal pH testing. It is used to measure the amount of acid found in your esophagus. It can help your doctor figure out if you have gastroesophageal reflux (GERD). It can also help diagnose other conditions that cause heartburn and make it more difficult to swallow.
What is esophageal pH testing?
Esophageal pH testing measures the amount of acid in your esophagus. It involves placing a tube with a tiny balloon in your esophagus and inflating the balloon. This allows your doctor to measure the amount of acid in your esophagus.
How is the test performed?
Before the test, you will drink water mixed with a chemical called potassium bicarbonate. The potassium bicarbonate helps prevent the acid from burning through the esophageal lining and into the rest of your body. The test is performed in an outpatient clinic or hospital. The procedure takes about 20 minutes.
During the test, a thin, flexible tube (called a catheter) is passed down through your nose into your stomach and then into your esophagus. A small balloon on the tip of the catheter will inflate. This will stop the acid in your esophagus from backing up into your throat. The balloon will stay in place for 20 to 45 minutes. Your doctor will then withdraw the catheter and take a sample of the fluid in your esophagus.
What are the risks?
Esophageal pH testing is a safe procedure. However, you may experience some complications. These include:
- A sore throat
- Discomfort when swallowing