A gastrointestinal motility disorder is present when the muscles of the digestive system do not move in tandem. Normally, food moves through the digestive tract via muscle contractions called peristalsis. When peristalsis is not occurring properly, several conditions may result, including:
- Achalasia (disorder of the esophagus, where food does not easily empty into the stomach)
- Gastroparesis (slow stomach emptying) that can be associated with symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux, nausea, vomiting and anorexia
- Pseudo-obstruction (disorders of gastric and intestinal motility) that can be associated with all of the above in addition to distension, bloating, abdominal pain, malnutrition, weight loss and constipation
- Fecal incontinence
At MedStar Georgetown, our doctors may use the Bravo pH system to help diagnose acid reflux. This system uses a capsule the size of a gelcap to transmit the pH of esophageal contents to a pager-sized receiver worn by the patient. The capsule is placed on the wall of the esophagus via a catheter, which is then removed. The capsule is equipped with a pH sensor to measure acid, and a telemetry system to transmit data to the receiver.
Other motility tests include esophageal manometry: both water-based and high resolution esophageal manometry systems, probe-based pH studies (impedance pH testing) and gastric pH testing. Learn more about our advanced diagnostic testing by visiting the Center for Gastrointestinal Motility and Heartburn.
Drugs called promotility agents, which help coordinating the emptying of the esophagus into the stomach, are regularly used. Other drug therapies may be available for different motility disorders.