Esophageal Motility Study (EMS)

Thank you for choosing Tufts Medical Center's GI Motility Service. We have provided the below instructions to ensure that your time in our care is as pleasant and safe as possible. Please read all instructions carefully before your esophageal motility study as these directions are critical to your health and safety.

The procedure and what to expect

The study is to evaluate for abnormal movement of the esophagus (food pipe). This is often done for patients with swallowing difficulty, chest pain, and heartburn that is not responsive to acid medication and atypical symptoms such as coughing, sore throat, wheezing, and hoarseness. The study is often used as part of a pre-operative evaluation before surgery.

The nose is numbed with a gel just prior to the start of the test. A catheter, about the size of a thick piece of spaghetti, is passed into one nostril, down the back of the throat, and into the esophagus. The patient will swallow as we pass the catheter. The length of the catheter contains sensors that measure the squeeze of the esophagus. The catheter is placed into the esophagus so that both the lower and upper esophageal sphincters are observed.

Placing the catheter takes approximately 10 minutes. No sedation is necessary. Once it is placed you will be asked to perform a series of “wet swallows.” The nurse, physician or technician will place 5 mL of water (approximately 1 teaspoon) into your mouth and then have you swallow the water. These swallows are recorded and then analyzed after you have completed the study.

There are very few risks for esophageal manometry. It is a very safe procedure. There may be mild discomfort in the back of the throat when the catheter is placed. There is a risk of minor bleeding, aspiration and perforation (or a hole in the esophagus).

Planning for your appointment

The Tufts Medical Center GI Motility Unit is located on the third floor in the Proger building. To find information on directions, parking and our campus map, visit the hospital locations and directions page >

Plan to spend about thirty minutes to an hour in our unit for your procedure. We will do everything possible to avoid a delay, but emergencies may interrupt the schedule. 

When preparing to come to the Medical Center for your appointment, please be sure to first:

  • Be sure you have an insurance referral, if required by your insurance company.
  • Be prepared to pay any co-payment on the day of your procedure.
  • Please bring the following items with you:
    • Your completed medical questionnaire and list of medication(s).
    • Your hospital card.

If you are unable to keep your appointment, please call us at least 48 hours in advance to re-schedule: 617-636-0142.

Preparing for your procedure

ONE WEEK before your study

  • THIS STUDY WILL NOT BE PERFORMED WHILE YOU ARE ON ANTICOAGULATION MEDICATION. If you are taking any type of anticoagulation medication (aspirin, Coumadin, Praxada, etc.) please contact your primary care physician regarding holding these medications for the study.
  • Verify with your referring physician whether or not they would like you to stop taking medications for treating acid reflux. IF the physician would like you to STOP the medications they should be stopped according:

    • Stop these medications ONE WEEK prior to the study:

      Prilosec (omeprazole), Nexium (esomeprazole), Aciphex (rabeprazole), Prevacid (lansoprazole), Protonix (pantoprazole), Zegerid (immediate release omeprazole), and Dexilant (dexlansoprazole)

    • Stop these medications TWO DAYS prior to the study:

Zantac (ranitidine), Tagamet (Cimetidine), Axid (Nizatidine), Pepcid (Famotidine)


If your physician wants you TO CONTINUE these medications to determine how effective they are in suppressing acid production, then take the medication with a small sip of water on the morning of the study.

Day of the procedure

  • Please complete all necessary forms. Bring all up-to-date insurance information, identification, and current list of medications to your appointment, as well as complete names, addresses, phone and fax numbers of all doctors you want to receive a copy of the report. We recommend you contact your insurance company prior to your study, in order to obtain coverage if needed.

**If you should have any questions regarding your medications, please contact your prescribing doctor. If you have any specific questions regarding the study, please contact the Motility Lab at 617-636-0142.