It is common for people with gastroparesis to also suffer from severe acid reflux (GERD) as a result of food sitting in the stomach for so long. A pH probe is a test to determine the amount of acid in a patient's stomach throughout the day.
Acid suppressants may be stopped the day before the test in order to ensure the most accurate results. Preparation involves the insertion of a very small tube through the nose and into the stomach. The tube is taped to the patient's nose and connected to an external, portable machine which records pH levels throughout the day over a 24 hour period.
During the test:
This test can be an outpatient procedure and the patient is usually asked to maintain normal eating habits for this test. The patient is given a diary to document symptoms, time of the symptoms, and whether symptoms are triggered by food or positional changes (sitting up, etc.).
After the test:
The patient will return to his/her physician to have the tube removed and return the diary. Normal activities may be resumed.
If the test is positive, it will indicate that the patient has higher than normal levels of acid in the stomach and therefore points towards a diagnosis of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Doctors typically treat that with medications such as proton pump inhibitors (Prilosec, Nexium, Prevacid, Aciphex) which reduce the amount of acid produced in the stomach. If the GERD is very severe and not controlled on medication, the patient may benefit from a Nissen Fundoplication.
A more easily tolerable method of testing pH levels known as the Bravo Monitoring System is now available from Medtronic. It is the size of a capsule and is placed during an endoscopy. It will monitor pH levels for 48 hours with much less discomfort than is experienced in the traditional pH monitoring.