The esophagus is a long, muscular tube that connects the throat to the stomach. It contracts with swallowing to push food from the throat to the stomach. Esophageal manometry is a test that evaluates how well the esophagus works, by measuring pressures produced by muscle contraction in response to swallowing. It is used to evaluate swallowing problems not caused by mechanical obstruction of the esophagus, chest pain not related to the heart, for preoperative evaluation to make sure the esophagus functions well enough to do antireflux surgery, and to assure correct placement of an esophageal pH catheter.
The test is accomplished with a thin, flexible catheter that has up to 36 pressure sensors spaced at 1 cm intervals along its length. It is attached to a computer and video monitor that display and store pressure information coming from the sensors. The test is performed by specially trained and experienced motility nurses. After the nasal passage is numbed by an anesthetic gel, the catheter is passed into the nose and swallowed into the esophagus by drinking water. It is positioned so pressure sensors are positioned from the throat to the stomach. Esophageal function is evaluated by giving the patient small amounts of liquid, a jello-like material and sometimes solid food to swallow. The catheter is removed at completion of the study, and the data are stored on a computer for analysis. The whole process takes about 15-30 minutes. The test is interpreted by gastroenterologist who are experts in esophageal diseases.