24-hour pH probe study


Parents and guardians can contribute to the success of this test and are often invited to participate. The 24-hour pH probe study is a test that uses a thin probe or tube placed in the oesophagus or food pipe, that connects the mouth to the stomach, to help your doctor diagnose and treat acid reflux. Placement of the probe takes only about 10 minutes, but readings are taken over a 24-hour period. For this reason, an overnight hospital stay is required.

What Is a 24-Hour pH Probe Study?
A pH probe study is a test to measure the amount and seriousness of acid juices that may be backing up into your child’s oesophagus, the tube that food passes through on its way to the stomach. The purpose of the test is to see if your child has acid reflux and help your doctor decide how to best treat it.
  1. A very thin probe will be passed through the nose and into the oesophagus. An X-ray will help make sure the probe is in the right place.
  2. The probe is connected to a small monitor that will record acid levels over a 24-hour period.
  3. Information from the test gives doctors detailed information about your child’s acid reflux that cannot be learned from a physical examination or other kinds of tests.
Home Preparation On the day of the test, your child should feed normal, usually before 7 a.m. Thereafter, clear liquids are allowed until 10 a.m. Follow your doctor’s specific orders about whether or not your child should take his or her medicines before the test.
Pack a small bag of clothing and items of special interest to your child, such as books, DVD’s and toys, to keep them busy during the overnight stay. You should also bring along a “comforter” item — such as a favorite stuffed animal or “blankie” — for your child to hold during the placement of the probe.
A Parent’s/Guardian’s Role During the Test One of the most important roles of a parent or guardian is to help their child stay calm and relaxed before and after the test. The easiest way to do this is to stay calm.
Talk to your child and hold his or her hand before the probe is placed. Placement of the probe involves the use of X-rays.
The Test
  • The 24-hour pH probe test will be done while your child is an inpatient for an overnight stay at Children’s Hospital.
  • Your child will be called to an examination room and you will be asked some screening questions by one of the doctor’s assistants or nurses.
  • Any questions or concerns about your child’s test can be asked at this time.
  • Your child will be taken to the Radiology Department, where usually placement of the pH probe occurs.
  • The pH probe is a thin tube about the size of a cooked spaghetti strand that is soft and bends easily.
  • The end of the probe is placed through the nose and into in the oesophagus. The probe will be taped to your child’s cheek to prevent it from moving and making your child uncomfortable during the test.
  • The probe is connected to a small computer that records pH or acid levels for 24 hours. Testing will begin once your child returns to his or her hospital room.
During the 24-Hour Hospital Stay
Once the probe has been placed, your child will be taken to a hospital room where he or she will stay for 24 hours.
The parent or guardian staying with the child will be asked to help keep him or her from pulling out the probe. If it is removed, the probe will have to be put in again or the test may be cancelled.
While in the hospital, your child will need to feed (lunch, dinner, a bedtime feed and breakfast the next morning. Eating will only allowed at meals and snack time. Your child should not feed in-between these times.
The probe will stay in place for 24 hours to record information about the acid juices in the oesophagus and stomach. After the breakfast feed the next day, a nurse will take out the probe. Taking out the probe is much easier than putting it in.
After the Test
Once the probe is out, you will be given instructions for going home. Your child’s doctor will call you in several days to discuss the results of the test.

About Author


As well as being one of the founding members of refluxSUPPORT...Jonathan is a Board Member and trustee of Living with Reflux – the only UK Charity for infants with reflux related conditions.He is also a stakeholder in the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) – Gastro-oesophageal reflux in children and young people.He has three daughters of which the eldest is now seventeen. Two suffered from severe reflux.