Bernstein test

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

The test is done in a gastroenterology laboratory. A nasogastric (NG) tube is passed through one side of your nose and 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.

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

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.

The test tries to reproduce symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux (stomach acids coming back up into the esophagus). It is done to see if you have the condition.

The test results will be negative.

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

Bernstein test Risks

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.

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Review Date: 10/8/2012
Reviewed By: George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, California. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, and Stephanie Slon.
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