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Bernstein test

Definition

The Bernstein test is a method to reproduce symptoms of heartburn. It is usually done with other tests to measure esophageal function.

Alternative Names

Acid perfusion test

How the test is performed

The test is done in a gastroenterology laboratory. A nasogastric (NG) tube will be inserted through one side of your nose and down into your esophagus. Mild hydrochloric acid will be sent down the tube, followed by salt water (saline) solution. This process may be repeated several times.

You will be asked to tell the health care team about any pain or discomfort you have during the test.

How to prepare for the test

You should not eat or drink anything for 8 hours before the test.

How the test will feel

You may have a gagging feeling and some discomfort when the tube is put into place. The acid may cause symptoms of heartburn. Your throat may be sore after the test.

Why the test is performed

The test attempts to reproduce symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux (stomach acids coming back up into the esophagus).

Normal Values

The test results will be negative.

What abnormal results mean

A positive test suggests that the symptoms are caused by esophageal reflux of acid from the stomach.

What the risks are

There is a risk of gagging or vomiting.

References

Fass R. Evaluation and diagnosis of noncardiac chest pain. Dis Mon. 2008;54:627-641.

Kahrilas PJ, Pandolfino JE. Esophageal neuromuscular function and motility disorders. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:chap 42.


Review Date: 11/23/2010
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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