The Bravo pH test for stomach acid involves attaching a capsule to your esophagus to measure acid reflux from your stomach. Knowing if and when stomach acid backs up into your esophagus can help your provider treat your symptoms. These might include heartburn and sore throat.
The BravoTM pH test measures the pH level of your esophagus. The pH level of a substance tells whether something is basic or acidic. Sometimes, stomach acid backs up into the esophagus (the tube that connects the throat to the stomach, or the “food pipe”) which can increase the acidity level within your esophagus.
Stomach acid isn’t the only thing that can back up into the esophagus. Food particles and other digestive juices can also splash back. When reflux occurs on a regular basis, it can cause permanent damage to the esophagus. The Bravo pH test reveals how often stomach contents reflux into the lower esophagus and how much acid the reflux contains.
If your healthcare provider thinks you might have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), they might ask you to have a Bravo pH test. People who are diagnosed with GERD often experience:
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The Bravo pH monitoring test is a system that includes:
A small capsule, about the size of a gel cap, is temporarily attached to the wall of the esophagus during an upper endoscopy. The capsule measures pH levels in the esophagus and transmits readings to a receiver (about the size of a pager) worn on your belt or waistband.
The receiver has several buttons on it that you will press to record symptoms of GERD such as heartburn (a caregiver will tell you what symptoms to record). You will be asked to maintain a diary to keep track of events like when you start and stop eating and drinking, when you lie down and when you get back up. This will be explained by your caregiver.
The capsule will be placed by a digestive disease provider skilled in gastrointestinal endoscopy. The upper endoscopy process uses thin tubing with cameras to look into your gastrointestinal system through your esophagus and down toward your stomach. The process can be used both to examine your system and to treat certain conditions.
Let your doctor know if you have a pacemaker or implantable heart defibrillator, a history of bleeding problems, dilated blood vessels, and any other previously known problems with your esophagus.
Please note: Occasionally, your doctor may want you to continue taking a certain medication during the monitoring period to determine if it is effective.
You should wear comfortable clothing. You might be asked to change into a gown at the hospital or outpatient facility.
Leave your jewelry and credit cards at home. You won’t be able to wear your glasses or dentures during the procedure.
You should have a responsible person to drive you home.
Your healthcare provider will again explain the procedure and what to expect. This procedure is done under twilight sleep. They will tell you about possible complications or side effects.
Your provider will apply a local anesthetic (pain-relieving medication) at the back of your throat.
The provider will insert an endoscope into your mouth and into your esophagus (the "food pipe" leading from your mouth into your stomach). The endoscope does not interfere with your breathing.
The provider will attach the capsule to tissue on your esophagus and make sure that the capsule is sending signals to the recorder.
The procedure lasts only a few minutes.
You’re probably wondering what your Bravo test experience will be like. Your throat might be a little sore. You might feel like something is in your throat. If you have any symptom that is extreme or that concerns you, contact your healthcare provider.
Here’s what you need to know about what happens during the study.
You’ll return the receiver and diary when the monitoring period is over. The information on the receiver and diary will be downloaded to a computer and the results will be analyzed.
Finding out if you have acid reflux is important. If you do have the more severe version (GERD), it could be causing damage to your esophagus, which could mean you could develop problems that are more serious. These include Barrett’s esophagus or esophageal cancer.
Finding out that you don’t have acid reflux is also important. Many people are taking medication like PPIs that aren’t working. You don’t need to take medication that is not indicated. If you don’t have acid reflux, your healthcare team can then help you find out what is really causing your symptoms.
Any procedure has risks, but the Bravo test has had few complications. These have included problems with the equipment that make the results unreliable. The capsule might fail to stay in place for the full testing period. Or, it might not detach when it’s supposed to do so.
Rarely, people having this test might feel some discomfort when they swallow, chest pain or back pain. You may have a sore throat from the endoscopy for a day or so.
There are other possible, though very unlikely, risks. These include damage to the tissue of your esophagus or intestines, possible bleeding or aspiration (breathing in) of the capsule.
After the study is complete, you:
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/02/2021.
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