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  • Gastroesophageal Reflux: A Cause of Breathing Problems

  • Gastroesophageal Reflux:
    A Cause of Breathing Problems

    Diagnosing Reflux

    Most of the time, by hearing the parents' story and seeing the child is enough to make a diagnosis. Sometimes test may be needed. The two most common tests used to diagnose reflux are the barium swallow (also called upper GI series or esophagram) and the pH probe test.

    • The barium swallow is a special x-ray. The child swallows a chalky-white liquid called barium that can be seen on x-rays. A video x-ray machine follows the barium so doctors can see if there are twists, kinks or narrow spaces in the upper bowels (intestines). It also may show the barium move from the stomach back into the esophagus. If this is seen during the barium swallow, it often means that reflux is causing the problem. Yet, there are many children who have severe reflux and show a normal barium swallow.
      More about this test.

    • pH probe is a small tube with a sensor device on the end. It goes through the child's nose and down the esophagus to the top entrance of the stomach. The sensor measures the acid that leaves the stomach. The sensor may be left in place for about 24 hours. The pH probe is more accurate than the barium swallow for finding reflux. But some children with breathing problems caused by reflux may have a normal pH probe result.
      More about this test. (PDF)

    No test is 100% accurate. Sometimes the best way to diagnose reflux is to treat it with medication and see if the symptoms improve.

    | More about Pediatric Reflux