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Having a 24 hour pH study

What is gastro oesophageal reflux disease (GORD)?

When we eat and drink, the food and drink moves down our food pipe, called the oesophagus. It goes into the stomach where acid is released and mixes with the food to help break it down and begin the process of digestion. For some, this mixture can re-enter the food pipe causing pain as the acid mixture irritates the lining of the food pipe.

Illustration diagram of the stomach, intestines and colon

How is GORD diagnosed?

GORD can be diagnosed by using a simple and straight forward test called a 24 hour pH study. This test is usually performed on our day-care ward while your child is awake.

Before the test can start, it is very important that your child has nothing to eat or drink for 2 hours before they come to hospital.

Fitting the tube

A thin probe is passed through the nose and down the back of the throat. This probe will not go into their stomach but will sit a couple of centimetres above the opening to the stomach. The procedure takes a few minutes but you may find that your child may wriggle and become upset. Your child should not be in any discomfort whilst the probe is in place but may find that the tube tickles a little.

Once the probe is in the correct position, the nurse will secure it to your child’s cheek with tape.

The X-ray

To confirm the correct position of the probe, your child will be sent for an X-ray.

When the X-ray has been checked, the probe can be connected to the pH box and your child can eat and drink as normal.

Digitrapper diagnostic device for measuring pH during a 24 hour pH study

pH box used in 24 hour monitoring

A food diary

Once the study has been started, your child will need to keep a food diary for the following 24 hour period. It is important that your child has a normal diet (for them) as much as possible during the study to make sure we have an accurate picture of what is happening.

Your child can usually go home once the pH study has been started and just return the recording box and diary the following day. In a small number of cases your child may need to stay overnight until their pH study has finished. If this is the case this will be discussed with you prior to your appointment. Sometimes the pH study may be carried out in theatre under a general anaesthetic at the same time as other planned investigations. If this is the case the doctor will discuss this with you in clinic beforehand.

Finishing the test

After 24 hours, the test is complete and the tube can be removed and the recording box must be returned to the ward. The hospital has a limited supply of recording boxes so it is important that you return the box as soon as you can, so that your child’s data can be uploaded and the equipment prepared for the next patient. You will receive the results of the study at your next outpatient appointment.

What do I do if my child is on any medication?

During your child’s last admission or outpatient appointment, their doctor will have discussed with your child needs to stop any medications. If you are not sure of what to do with the medications please make sure that you contact the gastro nurses at least 2 weeks before your  child’s appointment, as anti-reflux medications may need to be stopped several days before the test.

Contact us

If your have any questions or concerns, please contact the gastroenterology nurses on gastro.nurses@nhs.net or telephone directly on 0114 271 7111 or 0114 271 7162 between the following times:

  • Monday: 2pm to 3pm
  • Tuesday: 2pm to 3pm
  • Wednesday: 9am to 10am
  • Thursday: 2pm to 3pm
  • Friday: 11am to 12pm
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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: GAS8

Resource Type: Article

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United Kingdom

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