An external physical examination can be an important part of diagnosis, physiology tests are the internal equivalent. Used to analyse the performance of muscles, valves and other tissues within the digestive tract.
Evolution gave us a remarkable digestive system, such as our oesophagus, fine biological engineering to cope with liquids, solids and air entering our bodies. Time, lifestyle, or medical conditions can still take a toll on performance.
There are a range of physiological gastroenterology tests to establish where issues lie, for every part of the digestive tract. Professor Bloom will advise on any which may be helpful, we highlight a few examples.
The ability of your food pipe to function is important, so food can move to your stomach in a normal way. Difficulty swallowing, persistent heartburn, spasms, or non cardiac chest pain may be symptoms when this is not the case.
A test called esophageal manometry (or an esophageal motility study) can assess the current function of the upper and lower valves, along with the moving structure of the oesophagus itself.
You may be asked to swallow water during testing, which is conducted using a fine tube passed through your nose, to your stomach. As this is slowly withdrawn, pressure changes can be detected and recorded.
Beyond assessing structural function, esophageal manometry can help to establish the cause of reflux (regurgitation) of stomach acids, or contents back into the oesophagus, often known as gastro-oesophageal reflux disease or GORD.
The procedure is more patient friendly than may sound the case. A local anaesthetic can be used to desensitise your nose, but sedatives are not used and you can carry on with your day as normal afterwards.
The function of your anal sphincter controls the way you pass solid waste. Issues such as incontinence are surprisingly common, although may be treatable, once the cause is accurately diagnosed.
This could be issues with sensation, or muscle strength, or a tear in the muscle. Physiological testing will in many cases trace the cause.
Your consultant has a range of tests available, including rectal sensitivity testing, 2D and 3D rectal ultrasound scans, or a bowel motility study. In the latter case, you simply swallow a capsule and attend a few days later.
The key point to take away is that medical science can give valuable understanding on an important part of our body. Where poor function is a real issue and effective treatment valuable.
For the tests mentioned above and others, there can be a need to vary when you eat, or drink, or take medication. Clear advice will be given and any individual needs fully discussed before testing at our London clinics.
Gastroenterology by nature deals with quite personal needs and you will be supported accordingly. Our approach is always to treat the person alongside the condition, you are welcome to get in touch at any time.