To evaluate swallowing disorders, there are a variety of options doctors can use. These include:
- Barium X-ray - You swallow a liquid called barium, which provides the contrast needed for an X-ray. This X-ray helps the doctor analyze the esophagus and often the stomach and the beginning of the small intestine. A barium X-ray may be confined to the chest area (called an Upper GI series). If the swallowing problem seems to involve the throat (pharynx), that will be examined as well.
- Pharyngoscopy - An otolaryngologist (an ear, nose and throat specialist) visually examines the throat, either with a special mirror or a flexible telescope. Among other things, this exam allows the doctor to detect inflammations and tumors.
- Endoscopy - An endoscope is a tube that has a mini-camera attached, allowing a doctor to examine inside the body. With swallowing disorders, the tube usually goes down the throat. An esophagoscopy is an endoscope that only examines the esophagus. Other types of endoscopic exams for swallowing disorders may go farther into the stomach.
- Esophageal manometry - A test used to measure the strength and coordination of muscle function in the esophagus. A thin, flexible, catheter is passed either through the nose or mouth into the esophagus.
- Continuous pH monitor study - Also referred to as a 24-hour pH probe study, it involves an acid-sensitive catheter run through the nose into the esophagus. A portable monitor worn for 24 hours records the acid levels in the esophagus. It's mainly used to confirm the possibility of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).