This oesophageal laboratory serves a population of 1.5 million. The study aimed to review referral patterns and assess the cost effectiveness of oesophageal manometry in clinical practice. All 276 consecutive manometry studies performed between 1988 and 1991 were reviewed. Reasons for referral in the 268 first referrals were: dysphagia 50.4%, non-cardiac chest pain 23.1%, gastro-oesophageal reflux disease 14.2%, connective tissue disease 11.2%, and 'other' 1.1%. Manometry was normal in 49.3%, showed achalasia in 17.9%, diffuse oesophageal spasm in 13.4%, connective tissue disease in 7.8%, hypertensive lower oesophageal sphincter in 4.5%, nutcracker oesophagus in 2.6%, and 'other' in 4.5%. A positive diagnosis was significantly more common if dysphagia was the reason for referral (65.9% v 35.3%, p < 0.01). A positive diagnosis was established in 60% of patients referred with connective tissue disease, 30.6% with non-cardiac chest pain, and 21.1% with gastro-oesophageal reflux disease. A positive diagnosis was significantly more common in connective tissue disease when symptoms were present (85% v 10%, p < 0.05). Management was changed in 48.9% of all patients because of manometry findings. The cost of each oesophageal manometry study was calculated to be 63.00 pounds: every change in patient management cost 129.00 pounds. In conclusion, oesophageal manometry changed management in over 20% of patients with non-cardiac chest pain or gastro-oesophageal reflux disease and in over 60% of those with dysphagia. It is, therefore, a useful and cost effective test in patients with these symptoms.
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