Esophageal Motility Study

What is it?

An Esophageal Motility Study is a procedure that measures pressures in your esophagus (food tube) as you swallow.  It also shows how the esophagus functions.  This test is ordered by a doctor who specializes in swallowing problems.

Why is it done?

There are many symptoms that can start in your esophagus.  This test may be done to look into your symptoms.  These include:

  • Trouble swallowing food or fluids
  • Heartburn
  • Unexplained chest pain
  • Chronic cough

How do I prepare for the procedure?

  • Do not eat or drink for 4 hours before the test.  You MUST have an empty stomach for the procedure.
  • Avoid foods with caffeine (eg: tea, coffee, chocolate, or many soft drinks) for 24 hours before the procedure.
  • Your Doctor will tell you if you should stop taking any of your medication before the test.  If you are told to STOP taking your acid-reducing medication, this should start 7 days before the day of the test.
  • You may take Tums or Gaviscon up to 6 hours before the test to help you get through the week.

Checking In:

Go to the South Health Campus, Gut Motility Clinic, 6th floor, in the Pulmonary Diagnostics Clinic. Bring your health card and a list of your medications.

What can I expect during the procedure?

  • A numbing medication may be used in the nose or throat to ease the passage of the esophageal manometry probe.
  • While you are seated in a chair, a flexible probe will be gently inserted into your nose and down the back of your throat.
  • Upon swallowing, the tip of the probe passes into the esophagus and the nurse gently advances it to the desired level. There may be some gagging at this point but it is easily controlled by following the directions from the nurse.
  • During the exam, the nurse usually asks you to swallow saliva (dry swallow) or water (wet swallow).  Pressure readings are taken and the probe is then removed.

What can I expect after the procedure?

  • You may resume normal activity, diet, and medications after the exam.
  • Your doctor will speak with you about the findings at your follow-up visit.
  • You will be able to drive as you will not have been given any medication to help you to relax or to make you sleep.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Will I be asked to sign a consent form for this procedure?  Yes, you will have to sign a consent before this test as it is an invasive procedure.

Does this test hurt?  Most people find this test more uncomfortable than painful.  You may have a gagging sensation when the probe is inserted.

How long does this test take?  The test itself takes approximately 5-10 minutes.  You can expect to be with the nurse 30-45 minutes.

Can I be sedated for this test?  No, you need to be fully awake during this test so that you can follow the instructions from the nurse.  You also need to be awake so that the test shows how your esophagus works while  you are awake.

How do I contact the Motility Clinic?  You can contact the clinic Monday to Friday, (excluding statutory holidays), between 7:00 am -3:00 pm.   

Phone: (403) 956-2803                                                                                               

Fax: (403) 956-2848



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