April 19, 2023

Return of the Gastrointestinal Physiology Lab

After a three-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Northern Health Gastrointestinal Physiology Laboratory has begun providing services again.

The lab, located at the Day Oncology Unit at Northern Hospital Epping, is equipped with the latest state-of-the-art instruments and analysis software to cater for patients in the rapidly growing northern catchment. The lab provides oesophageal manometry and pH testing service for patients suffering from symptoms such as dysphagia (inability to swallow) and severe heartburn.

Chris Leung, Gastroenterologist, said many patients with severe dysphagia or heartburn cannot enjoy the simple pleasure of life, like eating a meal.

“Moreover, when severe, these symptoms can lead to significant weight loss and malnutrition. The Oesophageal Manometry and pH Service at Northern Health is a vital tool in diagnosing the cause of severe dysphagia or reflux. It is also an important investigation prior to upper gastrointestinal surgery,” he said.

Oesophageal manometry involves inserting a thin, flexible catheter into the patient’s nose and down into their oesophagus. This tube contains sensors that measure the pressure in the oesophagus when swallowing. By using 36 channels, 256 total sensors and 432 points of measurement, high-resolution catheters diagnose important conditions such as oesophageal spasm, ineffective motility and achalasia (inability of the lower oesophageal sphincter to relax).

A 24-hour oesophageal pH study measures the amount of acid reflux in the oesophagus and determines the severity of reflux. These two tests, alone or together, enables dietary, pharmacological and/or surgical treatments to be tailored to each patient.

“This is a significant step forward for Northern Health in serving our local community,” Chris said.

“Severe dysphagia can be very distressing for our patients. The ability to diagnose and treat it quickly is essential for their wellbeing. We have a commitment to provide the highest level of care to our patients and ensure that they have access to the latest diagnostic and treatment options.”

“Indeed, there is a thrilling satisfaction in witnessing a patient being able to swallow their favourite cuisine with their loved ones after months, or even years, of severe symptoms. Perhaps together, we can truly have our cake and eat it too.”

Featured image L-R: The Interdisciplinary Team, Kaylene Eckersall, Gastrointestinal Physiology Nurse, Chris Leung, Gastroenterologist, Melissa Gwynne, Day Oncology Unit Nurse Unit Manager and Sarah Taylor, Gastroenterology Registrar.