Small volume acid reflux in gastroesophageal reflux disease patients with hiatal hernia is only detectable by pH-metry but not by multichannel intraluminal impedance


Dr Jochen Weigt, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Infectious Diseases, Otto-v.-Guericke University, Leipziger Str. 44, 39129 Magdeburg, Germany. Email:


Until now, it is uncertain if the so-called pH-only reflux episodes that consist of a pH drop without evidence of retrograde bolus movement in multichannel intraluminal impedance (MII) represent reflux episodes or artifacts. Hiatal hernia (HH) may allow reflux of small volumes to occur that can be detected by pH-metry but not by MII. The aim was to search for a mechanism that can explain pH-only reflux, 20 patients (12 females and 8 males, median age 52 years, interquartile range [IQR]: 40.5–60.75 years) were investigated with MII–pH off PPI. Impedance and pH-metry data were analyzed separately. The differences in detection rate of acid reflux between pH-metry and MII were correlated with the presence of HH. In an in vitro experiment, MII–pH probes were flushed with citric acid in plastic tubes of different size with capillary diameter and diameters of 2.5 mm and 4.5 mm, while recording pH values and impedance. HH was present in six patients and absent in 14 patients. In patients with HH in comparison with patients with absent HH, the difference of acid reflux detection between pH-metry and MII is significantly higher (70%, IQR: 15–88% and 3.6%, IQR: 0–31%, respectively). In vitro all simulated reflux lead to a fall in pH whereas a corresponding decrease in impedance was only recognizable in the 4.5-mm plastic tubes. Acid reflux episodes in patients with HH are more frequently detected by pH-metry than by MII. Small volume reflux that does not lead to a decrease in impedance is the likely explanation for this phenomenon.