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Diagnosing Acid Reflux in Teens

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Updated July 10, 2009

Your child's doctor may base a diagnosis of acid reflux on your child's symptoms, a physical examination, and your child's response to medical treatment. For example, if your child's symptoms improve after treating proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), then it's probably GERD. If your child's symptoms do not improve, the doctor may order tests to determine if the acid reflux is caused by GERD or another disorder. These tests may include one of the following:

Lab tests
This can consist of various blood and urine tests to identify or rule out possible causes of recurring vomiting and poor weight gain.

Barium x-rays
Also known as barium swallow, these are diagnostic x-rays in which barium is used to diagnose abnormalities of the digestive tract. The patient drinks a chalky-colored liquid that contains barium. It coats the walls of the esophagus and stomach, and is visible on x-rays. A person reading the x-ray can then see if there are strictures, ulcers, hiatal hernias, erosions or other abnormalities. This test is not sensitive enough to be used as a reliable diagnostic test for GERD. It is used more often in patients who are experiencing difficulty with swallowing.

Upper endoscopy
The upper endoscopy (also known as esophagogastroduodenoscopy or EGD) allows the doctor to examine the inside of the patient's esophagus, stomach, and duodenum with an instrument called an endoscope, a thin, flexible, lighted tube.

Esophageal pH monitoring
This test will measure the acidity in your teen's esophagus. The pH procedure is done using a thin, plastic tube with a sensor that measures the amount of acid backing up into the esophagus. This procedure is often done when GERD symptoms are present but an endoscope exam doesn't detect any evidence of reflux disease. The pH test measures how often and for how long stomach acid enters the esophagus, and how well it clears the esophagus.

Additional Information:

Sources:

"Gastroesophageal Reflux in Children and Adolescents." NIH Publication No. 06–5418 August 2006. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC). 9 Apr 2008.

Marsha Kay, M.D. and Vasundhara Tolia, M.D., "COMMON GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS IN PEDIATRIC PATIENTS." The American College of Gastroenterology. 9 Apr 2008.

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  4. GERD
  5. Children and Acid Reflux
  6. Acid Reflux in Children - Diagnosis
  7. Diagnosing Acid Reflux in Teens - Teen Acid Reflux Diagnosis

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