Normal 24-hr ambulatory esophageal pH values. Influence of study center, pH electrode, age, and gender

Dig Dis Sci. 1992 Jun;37(6):849-56. doi: 10.1007/BF01300382.


Although the most sensitive and specific test for diagnosing gastroesophageal reflux disease, normal standards for prolonged esophageal pH monitoring are based on small sample sizes with questions raised about the effects of pH electrode, older age, gender, and methods of data analysis on pH variables. Recently three groups have established normal data bases using similar methodology. Multiple regression and nonparametric analyses showed that the values for the six traditional pH parameters were comparable across study centers. Therefore, the groups were combined for a total study population of 110 healthy subjects (47 men, 63 women, mean age 38 years with a range of 20-84 years). Further nonparametric analyses revealed the following: (1) type of pH electrode (antimony vs glass) is not significantly related to parameters of physiologic acid reflux; (2) age is not independently related to pH parameters; (3) men tend to have more physiologic reflux than women; and (4) older men tend to experience longer episodes of reflux than younger men and women. There was a significant effect of gender and a significant interaction between age and gender on the number of episodes greater than 5 min (P = 0.008). Nearly significant differences were found for percentage of total acid exposure time (P = 0.03), total reflux episodes (P = 0.02), and the longest reflux episode (P = 0.02). We believe these normal esophageal pH values can be used confidently as standards in any laboratory, and consideration should be given to developing separate standards for men and women.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Electrodes
  • Esophagus / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Monitoring, Physiologic / methods
  • Reference Values
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sex Factors