About the GI Motility Unit

Established by Dr. William Whitehead, the UNC GI Motility Unit is nationally renowned.  Each year we perform more than 3,500 GI motility procedures.

Our Team

  • Director: Yolanda Scarlett, MD
  • Providers
    • Evan Dellon, MD, MPH
    • Spencer Dorn, MD, MPH
    • Kathleen Ferrell, PA-C
    • Danielle Maier, PA-C
    • Ryan Madanick, MD
    • Yolanda Scarlett, MD.
  • Biofeedback Therapist:  Mary Scholz, RN, PhD
  • Motility Nurses: Sheila Crawford, RN, Nancy Boswell, RN

Types of Procedures and Instructions

Gastrointestinal motility describes the series of coordinated contractions used to process food and waste through the gastrointestinal tract. Within our motility unit we perform the following tests:

  • Anorectal manometry is a test of the anal sphincter and pelvic floor muscles that is used to evaluate constipation (including excessive straining and incomplete evacuation), fecal incontinence, and rectal pain. A nurse inserts a small, flexible tube into the anus and rectum. The sensor on the tube measures the strength of the anal sphincter muscles, as well as the coordination of the muscles used during bowel movement. No bowel prep is necessary and the test is not painful. Additional information and instructions are available here.
  • Esophageal Manometry is a test of the muscles of the esophagus that is used to evaluate difficulty swallowing, heartburn, and chest pain. During the test, the nurse applies numbing gel to the nasal passage and then inserts a thin tube through the nose into esophagus. The tube measures pressure in the esophagus during swallowing to determine if there is any abnormality. Additional information and instructions are available here.
  • pH Probe is a test that measures the amount and severity of acid reflux used to evaluate symptoms such as heartburn, regurgitation, chest pain, and cough. A nurse applies numbing gel to the nasal passage and then inserts a small tube through the nose into the esophagus. After the tube is placed you leave the hospital and return to normal activities, during which time a device on the tube measures acid movement in your esophagus, and you keep a diary to record meal times, symptoms, and time spent lying down. The following day you return to the hospital to have the tube removed. Instructions are available here.
  • Impedance/pH probe is similar to a pH probe study, but measures both acid and non-acid reflux. Instructions are available here.
  • Esophageal Function Test combines both esophageal manometry and impedance testing to evaluate how the esophagus clears fluid.
  • Breath testing for Helicobacter Pylori (C-13) is a test for the bacteria that causes ulcers. This test involves swallowing a solution and then periodically breathing into foil bags. The amount of carbon in each bag is then measured. Instructions are available here.
  • Breath Test for Bacterial Overgrowth is a test for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. It is sometimes used to evaluate abdominal discomfort, bloating, diarrhea, and malabsorption. This test involves swallowing a sugar solution and then breathing into foil bags every 15 minutes for two hours. The amount of hydrogen in each bag is then measured. Instructions are available here.
  • Breath Test for Lactose Intolerance is used to assess the ability to digest lactose, the sugar found it milk. It involves swallowing a sweet (lactose) solution and then breathing into foil bags periodically for three hours. The amount of hydrogen in the breath is then measured. Instructions are available here.
  • Pelvic Floor Biofeedback is one of the most effective treatments for certain types of constipation, fecal incontinence, and rectal pain. Dr. Mary Scholz, RN, PhD, a full time biofeedback therapist, teaches patients to retrain their pelvic floor muscles.

How to schedule an appointment

Your physician should simply fax a completed procedure request form (available here) to 919-966-8764. Upon receipt, our office will call you to schedule the appointment.

How to contact us

If you have any questions or need to reschedule your appointment please call 919-966-5563. After hours, messages may be left at 919-966-2319.

Maps and Directions

The GI Motility Unit is located in the basement of UNC Medical Center, adjacent to GI Procedures. A map and directions are available here.  Biofeedback is offered at Hillsborough Medical Office Building.  A map and directions are available here.

What to Expect and Frequently Asked Questions

To learn more about what to expect and for answers to frequently asked questions, please click here.