GI Motility Unit
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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.
- Director: Yolanda Scarlett, MD
- Shifali Arora, MD
- Spencer Dorn, MD, MPH
- Kathleen Ferrell, PA-C
- Danielle Maier, PA-C
- Yolanda Scarlett, MD.
- Pelvic Floor Biofeedback Therapy provided by therapists from UNC Hospitals Center for Rehabilitation Care.
- 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. UNC pelvic floor physical therapists teach patients to retrain their pelvic floor muscles.
When a motility test is scheduled, appropriate instructions will be mailed out prior to the test. Copies of these instructions are below:
- Anorectal Manometry
- Esophageal Manometry
- pH Probe
- Impedance Probe/pH Probe
- H. Pylori Test
- Bacterial Overgrowth Test
- Defecogram Study
- Sitzmarker Study
If you have any questions regarding your preparation, please call 919-966-5563, or if you are having issues after-hours about a scheduled procedure, please dial the operator at 984-974-1000 and ask for the GI Medicine Fellow On-Call.
How to schedule an appointment
Your physician should simply fax a completed procedure request form 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 984-974-5050.
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 (map link) and UNC Center for Rehabilitative Care (map link). A map and directions are available here.
What to Expect and Frequently Asked Questions
To learn more about what to expect, please visit our Frequently Asked Questions.