The following tests are routinely performed when trying to diagnose GERD.
A barium swallow radiograph uses x rays to help spot abnormalities such as a hiatal hernia and severe inflammation of the esophagus. With this test, you drink a solution and then x-rays are taken. Mild irritation will not appear on this test, although narrowing of the esophagus--called stricture--ulcers, hiatal hernia, and other problems will.
Upper endoscopy is performed in a hospital or a doctor's office. The doctor will spray your throat to numb it and slide down a thin, flexible plastic tube called an endoscope. A tiny camera in the endoscope allows the doctor to see the surface of the esophagus and to search for abnormalities. If you have had moderate to severe symptoms and this procedure reveals injury to the esophagus, usually no other tests are needed to confirm GERD.
In an ambulatory pH monitoring examination, the doctor puts a tiny tube into the esophagus that will stay there for 24 hours. While you go about your normal activities, it measures when and how much acid comes up into your esophagus. This test is useful in people with GERD symptoms but no esophageal damage. The procedure is also helpful in detecting whether respiratory symptoms, including wheezing and coughing, are triggered by reflux.