Oropharyngeal pH Monitoring for the Detection of Liquid and Aerosolized Supraesophageal Gastric Reflux


      The association between gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and extraesophageal symptoms is poorly understood and difficult to document. pH monitoring in this group of patients has resulted in conflicting data due to lack of diagnostic sensitivity. Recently, a new sensitive pH device for detection of liquid and aerosolized droplets in the oropharynx (The Dx–pH Measurement System [Dx–pH]) has become available. Our hypothesis is that we will be able to improve our ability to identify and understand this group of patients with this device. The aim of this preliminary observation study was to compare the results of this new device to the standard esophageal and pharyngeal pH probes in a small group of patients with extraesophageal symptoms. Patients with suspected extraesophageal GER symptoms underwent traditional 24-hour esophago-pharyngeal pH monitoring (24pH) simultaneous with Dx–pH monitoring in the oropharynx. Tracings were reviewed for comparison and correlation between the two probes, with an event in the Dx–pH Probe being defined as a rapid drop >3 standard deviation from baseline. Fifteen patients (10 females, 5 males) with mean age of 57.5 years (range, 25–75) were studied. The predominant chief complaint included 12/15 chronic cough, 2/15 asthma; and 1/15 throat clearing. All Dx–pH events were preceded and associated with distal esophageal pH drops in a progressive ante grade manner. Ten patients had 1–13 abnormal oropharyngeal pH events as measured by Dx–pH monitoring with a total of 48 events. The median pH of reflux events had a statistically significant increase from 3.1 at the distal esophageal probe to 5.2 at the pharynx and 5.6 at the oropharynx, the latter being 80% higher than the distal esophageal probe (P<0.001). The percentage of acid events decreased in a cephalad manner from 66.7% at distal esophagus to 25% at the pharynx and only 6.25% at the oropharyngeal Dx–pH Probe, with the remaining events being weakly acidic. Dx–pH Probe is a new sensitive oropharyngeal pH device whose values correlate well with the gold-standard 24-hour pH device, and appears to accurately detect pH events that begin at the distal esophagus and travel upward to the oropharynx. This device suggests that supraesophageal events manifest themselves as rapid pH drops (>10%), which are likely not to be identified using the standard criteria of pH <4 due to the gradient of increasing pH from the lower esophagus to the oropharynx.

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