Gastroesophageal Reflux Scan

What is Gastroesophageal Reflux Scan

Gastroesophageal reflux scan is a procedure that is used to check for gastroesophageal reflux, which is the backward flow of stomach contents into the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach (esophagus). The scan can also show if any stomach contents are inhaled (aspirated) into your lungs. You may need this scan if you have symptoms such as heartburn, vomiting, swallowing problems, or regurgitation. Regurgitation means that swallowed food is returning from the stomach to the esophagus.

For this scan, you will drink a liquid that contains a small amount of a radioactive substance (tracer). A scanner with a camera that detects the radioactive tracer is used to see if any of the material backs up into your esophagus.

Tell a health care provider about:

  • Any allergies you have.
  • All medicines you are taking, including vitamins, herbs, eye drops, creams, and over-the-counter medicines.
  • Any blood disorders you have.
  • Any surgeries you have had.
  • Any medical conditions you have.
  • If you are pregnant or you think that you may be pregnant.
  • If you are breastfeeding.

What are the risks?

Generally, this is a safe procedure. However, problems may occur, including:

  • Exposure to radiation (a small amount).
  • Allergic reaction to the radioactive substance. This is rare.

What happens before the procedure?

  • Ask your health care provider about changing or stopping your regular medicines. This is especially important if you are taking diabetes medicines or blood thinners.
  • Follow your health care provider’s instructions about eating or drinking restrictions.

What happens during the procedure?

  • You will be asked to drink a liquid that contains a small amount of a radioactive tracer. This liquid will probably be similar to orange juice.
  • You will assume a position lying on your back.
  • A series of images will be taken of your esophagus and upper stomach.
  • You may be asked to move into different positions to help determine if reflux occurs more often when you are in specific positions.
  • For adults, an abdominal binder with an inflatable cuff may be placed on the belly (abdomen). This may be used to increase abdominal pressure. More images will be taken to see if the increased pressure causes reflux to occur.

The procedure may vary among health care providers and hospitals.

What happens after the procedure?

  • Return to your normal activities and your normal diet as directed by your health care provider.
  • The radioactive tracer will leave your body over the next few days. Drink enough fluid to keep your urine clear or pale yellow. This will help to flush the tracer out of your body.
  • It is your responsibility to obtain your test results. Ask your health care provider or the department performing the test when and how you will get your results.
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