Background: Ambulatory 24-h dual-channel pharyngeal and oesophageal pH monitoring is the standard test for measuring gastro-oesophageal and gastropharyngeal reflux. Artefacts caused by the intake of food may result in falsely positive gastropharyngeal reflux, which necessitates a manual review of 24-h pH data. The purpose of the study was to investigate the influence of meals and whether leaving out meals affected the reliability of the test.
Methods: Patients referred for otolaryngological complaints, suspected to have been caused by gastro-oesophageal reflux, underwent 24-h dual-channel pH monitoring. The raw unprocessed pH data were corrected by visual inspection of the 24-h tracings (corrected data), by leaving out meals or meals plus a 2-h postprandrial period.
Results: The raw pH data were substantially influenced by artefacts of food intake and pseudoreflux. Data obtained by leaving out meals agreed best with manually corrected data. Many of the falsely positive reflux episodes could be removed, thereby inducing a 9%-18% chance of undetected reflux. When examining the fraction of time supine, manually corrected data and data leaving out meals were fully concordant and detected 79% of patients with gastropharyngeal reflux. However, leaving out meals plus a 2-h postprandrial period resulted in 21%-50% falsely negative tests.
Conclusion: Leaving out the period of intake of meals and beverages from the raw pH data might be the second best test after the time-consuming visual correction with a small chance of undetected gastropharyngeal reflux. For scientific purposes and when in doubt, it remains necessary to review the computer-generated data manually to discover every gastropharyngeal reflux event.