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Bernstein Test

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Updated April 20, 2009

The Bernstein test, also called acid perfusion test, is a diagnostic procedure used to try to reproduce the symptoms of heartburn, to determine whether your heartburn symptoms are caused by acid coming up from the stomach and irritating the esophagus. It is usually done along with other tests that measure esophageal function.

How Do You Prepare for the Bernstein Test?

You will be asked to not eat or drink anything for 8 hours before the test.

How Is the Bernstein Test Performed?

A nasogastric (NG) tube is inserted through your nose and down into your esophagus. When the tube is in place, a diluted solution of hydrochloric acid (similar to stomach acid) is passed through the NG tube and into your esophagus. You will be asked if there is any pain or discomfort. Next, a saline (salt water) solution is passed through the NG tube and into your esophagus, and you will again be asked if there is any pain or discomfort. After your responses are noted, the NG tube is removed.

What Do the Results of the Bernstein Test Mean?

The results of this procedure can mean one of three things:
  • If you experience no pain with either solution, this usually means your esophagus is healthy and no irritation is present.
  • If you experience pain with the acid solution but not the saline solution, this can mean that your heartburn is probably due to acid reflux.
  • If you experience pain with both the acid and saline solutions, your doctor will need to perform further tests to determine the cause of your heartburn symptoms.
Sources:

Carol Ann Rinzler, Ken DeVault, MD. Heartburn & Reflux for Dummies. Wiley Publishing, Inc., 2004. Print.

Peikin, M.D., Steven R.. Gastrointestinal Health. HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 1999. Print.

"Understanding Your GI Tract ." The American College of Gastroenterology. 13 Apr 2009

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