Airway pH Study

  • Reference Number: HEY-062/2013
  • Departments: GI Physiology

This leaflet has been produced to give you general information. Most of your questions should be answered by this leaflet. It is not intended to replace the discussion between you and the healthcare team, but may act as a starting point for discussion. If after reading it you have any concerns or require further explanation, please discuss this with a member of the healthcare team.

What is an airway pH study?

You have been troubled by some symptoms and following discussion with your doctor they have requested that an airway pH study is performed.

An airway pH study is performed by using a system that comfortably
measures pH (pH measurements range between 0 which is strong acid through to 14 which is strong alkaline, with 7 being neutral), in the airway.

Sometimes stomach acid can take a gaseous form rather than just liquid. This test will look to see if any gaseous acid is present that could be going into your airways.

Why do I need an airway pH study?

The tests provide valuable information regarding your condition and will help to decide what the best treatment for you is. Unfortunately, there are no other less invasive tests available that will give us this information.

Can there be any complications or risks?

The risk of causing serious harm to you with these tests is very small but could include bleeding or damage to your nose, throat or larynx (voice-box). There is no published information on how often these problems occur however they are extremely rare. Occasionally people may feel faint whilst inserting the tube but this is not dangerous and a senior clinical physiologist will care for you during the study. It is common to have a runny nose or a sore throat that usually goes away once the tube is removed.

Some of the equipment used during your investigations may contain latex. Patients who have a latex allergy are asked to inform the department before they attend so that we can prepare the examination room.

How do I prepare for an airway pH study?

Please read this information leaflet carefully. Share the information it contains with your partner and family (if you wish) so that they can be of help and support. There may be information they need to know, especially if they are taking care of you following this examination.

If you are requesting ambulance transport, please contact your GP for details on how to book this. Ensure to tell the ambulance service that your appointment is 30 minutes earlier than it is to allow time for transport delays, and remember to book transport for the following day for removal of the airway pH tube. Unfortunately late arrival at the hospital may mean that there is insufficient time to carry out the procedure resulting in its cancellation.

Please refrain from wearing make-up and do not apply moisturiser to your face or neck on the day of the study.

It is necessary for you to have nothing to eat or drink for 4 hours prior to the study, although you may drink water up to 2 hours prior to the test. However if you are diabetic, please continue with your normal diet.

If you are on any medication for your heart, breathing problems or hormone replacement therapy, please continue to take them as usual. However, it is important that you stop taking any of the following:

7 days before your appointment:

Any proton pump inhibitor such as: omeprazole (Losec), lansoprazole (Zoton), rabeprazole (Pariet), esomeprazole (Nexium) or pantoprazole (Protium).

3 days before your appointment:

Any histamine H2 -receptor antagonist or drugs listed here:
ranitidine (Zantac), cimetidine (Tagamet), nizatidine (Axid), famotidine (Pepcid), domperidone (Motilium), metoclopramide (Maxolon), mebeverine (Colofac), alverine citrate (Spasmonal), buscopan or baclofen.

If you need to stop any medication prior to the test please obtain some Gaviscon Advance from your GP or chemist. Take one dose after meals and an extra dose at bedtime. If you have any periods of heartburn not controlled by this, ordinary antacids may be taken as well. Please do not take any antacids on the day of the test.

On the morning of the test please take any other medication that you would normally take that has not been stopped, with just a little water.

What will happen?

You should go to the Department of GI Physiology, which is situated next to ward 14 (1st floor) at Castle Hill Hospital.  A member of staff from the Department of GI Physiology will meet and greet
you and explain the procedure to you. This is to ensure that you understand the study and all its implications. You will be asked to sign a consent form if you agree to have the procedures carried out; a member of staff from the Department of GI Physiology will then start the airway pH study.

You cannot be put to sleep or sedated during the study. You will be asked to sit upright on a couch. The tiny probe is passed via the nose and sits behind the soft palate at the back of the roof of your mouth for the duration of the study (24 or 48 hours) and will transmit the data using wireless technology to a recorder that is attached to your waist.

It is important that you carry out your normal activities as far as possible during the recording period to see if they might be related to your symptoms. There are minor restrictions on eating and activity, this will be explained to you at your appointment (you will press buttons on the machine and fill in a paper diary to give us this information). You should not shower or take a bath as it could result in damaging the monitoring equipment.

Throughout the study you will input information such as meals and symptoms with the push of a button (this will all be explained to you). You will then return the following day to have the airway pH tube and recorder removed and you may then go back to work or return home. The procedure will take approximately 30 minutes.

If required, a member of staff from Hull and East Yorkshire Hospital NHS Trust will be available for you to speak to 24 hours a day. (Contact details and a telephone number will be provided when you attend the department).

You cannot take your normal anti-reflux or indigestion medication, as it will prevent accurate study results. If you do take any anti-reflux or indigestion medication during this period you will be required to have the airway pH study repeated.

What happens afterwards?

The results of the test will be analysed before a diagnosis can be made. Once this is done the report will be sent to the consultant in charge of your care. They will decide what the most appropriate treatment is for you. You should expect to hear from the hospital within 4 weeks of having the test. If you have not heard from the hospital within 4 weeks, please contact your consultant’s secretary by ringing the hospital switchboard, on telephone number (01482) 875875 and asking for your particular consultant’s secretary.

Should you require further advice on the issues contained in this leaflet, please do not hesitate to contact the Department of GI Physiology on telephone (01482) 622155

You should not experience any problems after your tests, however please feel free to contact the department if you have any concerns.

General Advice and Consent

Most of your questions should have been answered by this leaflet, but remember that this is only a starting point for discussion with the healthcare team.

Consent to treatment

Before any doctor, nurse or therapist examines or treats you, they must seek your consent or permission. In order to make a decision, you need to have information from health professionals about the treatment or investigation which is being offered to you. You should always ask them more questions if you do not understand or if you want more information.

The information you receive should be about your condition, the alternatives available to you, and whether it carries risks as well as the benefits. What is important is that your consent is genuine or valid. That means:

  • you must be able to give your consent
  • you must be given enough information to enable you to make a decision
  • you must be acting under your own free will and not under the strong influence of another person

Information about you

We collect and use your information to provide you with care and treatment. As part of your care, information about you will be shared between members of a healthcare team, some of whom you may not meet. Your information may also be used to help train staff, to check the quality of our care, to manage and plan the health service, and to help with research. Wherever possible we use anonymous data.

We may pass on relevant information to other health organisations that provide you with care. All information is treated as strictly confidential and is not given to anyone who does not need it. If you have any concerns please ask your doctor, or the person caring for you.

Under the Data Protection Act (1998) we are responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of any information we hold about you. For further information visit the following page: Confidential Information about You.

If you or your carer needs information about your health and wellbeing and about your care and treatment in a different format, such as large print, braille or audio, due to disability, impairment or sensory loss, please advise a member of staff and this can be arranged.