Your doctor may recommend esophageal manometry if you're experiencing symptoms that could be related to an esophageal disorder.

Esophageal manometry 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 esophageal muscle contractions that moves food along.

If your main symptom is difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) or pain when swallowing (odynophagia), your doctor is likely to order other tests, such as x-rays, before or instead of esophageal manometry. These tests identify or rule out an obstruction in the esophagus — a narrowing, a complete blockage or an area of inflammation. Swallowing problems generally point more strongly to an obstruction than to a motility disorder.

Esophageal manometry may be used to help diagnose:

  • Diffuse esophageal spasm. This rare swallowing problem is characterized by multiple, forceful, poorly coordinated muscle contractions of your esophagus.
  • Achalasia. This uncommon condition occurs when your lower esophageal muscle (sphincter) doesn't relax properly to let food enter your stomach. Muscles in the wall of your esophagus are often weak as well. This can cause difficulty swallowing and regurgitation of food back up into your throat.
  • Scleroderma. In many people with this rare progressive disease, the muscles in the lower esophagus stop moving, leading to severe gastroesophageal reflux.

If you're considering undergoing anti-reflux surgery to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), your doctor may recommend esophageal manometry to make sure you don't have achalasia or spasm, which GERD surgery can't help.

If you have swallowing problems and chest pain not related to your heart, esophageal manometry may be recommended after an endoscopy to rule out GERD.

June 10, 2015