Common Gastroenterology Tests & Procedures
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Mostly performed as an outpatient procedure, a colorectal cancer screening and colonoscopy uses a thin, flexible camera to examine your colon. You’re under a sedative during this 20-minute imaging procedure, and your provider will be looking for polyps and other abnormalities.
Related: Colonoscopy FAQs and Colonoscopy Prep Center
During an endoscopic ultrasound, a thin, flexible tube with an ultrasound probe is inserted into your mouth or anus to take a closer look at impacted areas of your GI tract, including your esophagus, stomach, pancreas and rectum.
To identify any issues in your upper GI tract, your provider may recommend an upper endoscopy. You will be under a sedative, and then a thin, flexible tube with a camera and a light will be inserted into your mouth and your esophagus, stomach or duodenum (the first section of your small intestine) will be checked out.
A capsule endoscopy uses a small, pill-sized camera that you swallow to take pictures along your digestive tract. (A wearable device stores the pictures until your provider can download them.) In about a day, you will pass the capsule during a bowel movement.
To get a closer look at your gallbladder, pancreatic ducts and bile ducts, an endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography may be recommended for you. This imaging procedure uses a small, flexible tube fitted with a camera and light inserted into your mouth to your liver and pancreas ducts along with contrast dye for X-rays.
To determine if you have Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), or how effective your GERD treatment is, you may undergo a Bravo esophageal pH test. This pH test measures and monitors the amount of acid present in your esophagus (the tube that connects your mouth to your stomach). A small, dissolvable capsule is attached to your esophagus during an upper endoscopy and measures pH. It transmits to a pager-like device you wear, and you also record any time you have GERD symptoms and what you eat, when you rest, etc.
Fructose Intolerance Breath Test
To determine if you have difficulty absorbing fructose (a naturally occurring sugar), your provider may recommend a fructose intolerance breath test. Hydrogen levels in your breath are measured before drinking a water-dissolved fructose and then again several times after ingesting it. If hydrogen levels are high, it’s an indication that your body isn’t properly absorbing the sugar.
Lactose Intolerance Breath Test
Similar to the fructose intolerance breath test, the lactose intolerance breath test helps determine if you’re unable to digest lactose (a naturally occurring sugar found in milk). Hydrogen levels are measured before you drink a lactose beverage, and then again at certain intervals. High hydrogen levels mean your body isn’t properly digesting lactose.
Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) Breath Test
To diagnose small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), which can cause bloating, cramping, gas and diarrhea, you may be asked to do a SIBO breath test. You will drink a sugary solution and breath into a breathalyzer. Any intestinal bacteria will ferment and will come out in your breath.
Gastric Emptying Study (GET)
During a gastric emptying study (GET), you’ll be monitored for the amount of time it takes a meal to move through your stomach. You’ll eat a solid (usually eggs) and a liquid (usually water), along with a small amount of radioactive material. This material allows a special camera to follow the food through your digestive system. At timed intervals, the provider will take images of your stomach.
An esophageal manometry test helps understand how well your lower esophageal sphincter (LES) functions. This valve serves as the gate between your esophagus and your stomach, and the test will determine if food travels from your mouth to your stomach normally. During the test, a small, flexible tube is inserted into your nose down to your stomach and sensors measure the strength and coordination of your LES as you swallow water.
24-Hour pH and Impedance Monitoring
To assess symptoms of reflux, 24-hour pH and impedance monitoring measures the amount of reflux (both acidic and non-acidic) in your esophagus over the course of a day. A catheter is placed through your nose and down your esophagus and connected to a small recorder at your waist. You’ll still be able to swallow, talk and breathe without any difficulty throughout the duration of the test. The results of this 24-hour test help determine whether reflux of stomach contents into your esophagus is behind symptoms like heartburn, regurgitation, cough or sore throat.