Submitted by Ochsner Medical Center
Heartburn is widespread among today’s adult population, impacting millions of Americans. While most of us have an occasional bout with the burn, some people struggle with heartburn daily. These patients may be prescribed medications and directed to change their diet to reduce symptoms, but that does not always solve the problem.
“When we see patients who have not gained relief from symptoms despite having tried everything from antacids to avoiding food triggers, we have to delve into their problem more closely,” says Ochsner Medical Center – Baton Rouge Gastroenterologist Gregory Gaspard, MD. Dr. Gaspard and other Ochsner Medical Center – Baton Rouge physicians now have a new diagnostic tool available to do just that.
pH-impedance testing is used to determine whether the patient is experiencing acid reflux or non-acid reflux. The test results can lead to a new treatment plan or an adjustment in the current plan. “Impedance testing allows us to examine in closer detail exactly what is happening. With that information we may change the patient’s medications or dosage or even recommend surgery if necessary. In the end, the patient should see greatly improved results because the more precise details the test generates allow us to formulate a better, more individualized treatment plan,” says Dr. Gaspard. He adds the test has proven effective in determining a cause in patients with frequent, unresponsive heartburn and those with chronic coughing or epigastric pain.
The impedance test is conducted over a 24 hour period. During that time the patient wears a thin catheter which is passed through the nose and into the esophagus. The monitor records and charts all reflux episodes which are then analyzed by the physician along with input from the patient as to when they experienced symptoms. Together this information alerts the physician as to which type of reflux is present and how often it occurs.
“This is an important tool to have available in the diagnosis of heartburn, especially because heartburn is such a common problem among adults,” says Dr. Gaspard. He says that Ochsner Medical Center – Baton Rouge is currently one of a few in the southeast region of the country to offer this level of precise testing, with patients coming from New Orleans, Mississippi and Florida to have the test performed.
Impacting thousands of adults daily, heartburn and acid reflux are caused by acid that escapes from the stomach. Symptoms may include: a burning feeling in the chest, burping or belching, pain in the upper abdomen, worsening of these symptoms when bending over or lying down or chronic cough and hoarseness.
To reduce heartburn symptoms doctors recommend that you avoid foods that trigger heartburn; do not overeat; do not nap after eating, especially after large meals and work on reducing your stress. Maintaining a healthy weight and not smoking can also reduce heartburn risk. If symptoms persist and over-the-counter medications such as antacids do not help, you should see your doctor.
Seek immediate medical attention if you experience severe chest pain, have difficulty breathing or have jaw or arm pain as these may be a sign of a heart attack.