Bernstein Test

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The Bernstein test is a diagnostic procedure that simulates the symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) by dripping a mild acid solution into the lower esophagus. It is used to confirm or rule out GERD as the cause of chest pain, heartburn, or other discomforts. The test is also known as the acid perfusion test or the intraesophageal acid perfusion test.

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Bernstein-Test

How is the test performed?

The test is performed in a gastroenterology laboratory, where a thin, flexible tube (nasogastric tube) is inserted through the nose and into the esophagus. The tube delivers a saltwater solution followed by a hydrochloric acid solution, which mimics the stomach acid that may reflux into the esophagus. The patient is asked to report any pain or discomfort during the test. If the patient feels symptoms only from the acid solution, the test is positive and indicates GERD. If the patient does not feel symptoms from either solution, the test is negative and suggests that the symptoms are not related to GERD.

The test usually takes about 10 to 120 minutes and the results are available almost immediately. The test is minimally invasive and has a high ability to confirm or rule out GERD. However, the test may also cause some risks, such as gagging, vomiting, or sore throat. The test is rarely done nowadays, as other tests can measure esophageal function more accurately and comfortably, such as 24-hour esophageal pH monitoring or esophageal manometry.

What are the risks?

Esophageal pH testing is a safe procedure. However, you may experience some complications. These include:

  • A sore throat
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Discomfort when swallowing
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