Background: Pharyngeal pH probes and pH-impedance catheters have been developed for the diagnosis of laryngo-pharyngeal reflux.
Objective: To determine the reliability of pharyngeal pH alone for the detection of pharyngeal reflux events.
Methods: 24-h pH-impedance recordings performed in 45 healthy subjects with a bifurcated probe for detection of pharyngeal and oesophageal reflux events were reviewed. Pharyngeal pH drops to below 4 and 5 were analysed for the simultaneous occurrence of pharyngeal reflux, gastro-oesophageal reflux, and swallows, according to impedance patterns.
Results: Only 7.0% of pharyngeal pH drops to below 5 identified with impedance corresponded to pharyngeal reflux, while 92.6% were related to swallows and 10.2 and 13.3% were associated with proximal and distal gastro-oesophageal reflux events, respectively. Of pharyngeal pH drops to below 4, 13.2% were related to pharyngeal reflux, 87.5% were related to swallows, and 18.1 and 21.5% were associated with proximal and distal gastro-oesophageal reflux events, respectively.
Conclusions: This study demonstrates that pharyngeal pH alone is not reliable for the detection of pharyngeal reflux and that adding distal oesophageal pH analysis is not helpful. The only reliable analysis should take into account impedance patterns demonstrating the presence of pharyngeal reflux event preceded by a distal and proximal reflux event within the oesophagus.
Keywords: Gastro-oesophageal reflux; laryngo-pharyngeal reflux; oesophageal impedance; pharyngeal pH.