How is laryngopharyngeal reflux diagnosed?

LPR is usually diagnosed based on the patient’s symptoms of irritation or swelling in the throat and the back of the voice box. In many cases, no testing is needed to make the diagnosis.

If testing is needed, three commonly used tests are: a swallowing study; a direct look at the stomach and esophagus through an endoscope, and; an esophageal pH test:

  • In a swallowing study, the patient swallows a special liquid called barium, which coats the esophagus, stomach and intestine so they are outlined on an X-ray. This allows the doctor to see the movement of food as it passes from the mouth to the esophagus.
  • The doctor can also view the inside of the stomach and esophagus with an endoscope, a long thin tube with a camera on the end that the doctor passes through the mouth, down the esophagus and into the stomach.
  • The esophageal pH test measures and records the pH (level of acid) in the esophagus. A thin, small tube with a device on the tip that senses acid is gently passed through the nose, down the esophagus, and positioned about 2 inches above the lower esophageal sphincter. The tube is fastened to the side of the face with tape. The end of the tube that comes out of the nose is attached to a portable recorder that is worn on the belt or over the shoulder. The recorder has several buttons on it that the patient presses to mark certain events.

PH Monitoring | Cleveland Clinic

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 09/20/2018.

References

  • American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery. GERD and LPR. Accessed 10/5/2018.
  • Martinucci I, de Bortoli N, Savarino E. et al. Optimal treatment of laryngopharyngeal reflux disease. Ther Adv Chronic Dis. 2013 Nov; 4(6): 287–301. doi: 10.1177/2040622313503485

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