Frequently asked questions

Find answers to common questions about the Heartburn Health Check and the EndoSign® test below. For more information, please speak to your doctor.

Why am I having a Heartburn Health Check?

For people with persistent heartburn or reflux, your doctor may ask you to have a Heartburn Health Check so they can check your symptoms to see if any further investigation is needed.

If you have a condition called Barrett’s oesophagus, there is a small risk that this could develop into oesophageal cancer and the health of your oesophagus should be monitored. The results of the test will help your doctor manage your symptoms or decide on the next steps of treatment, if any is needed.

If you have any concerns, please speak to your doctor. You can see more about conditions of the oesophagus here.

How big is the capsule?

The EndoSign® capsule is roughly 2cm long, similar in size to a vitamin pill. It contains a small sponge connected to a thin, strong thread. Your doctor or nurse will ask you to swallow the capsule with some water. It is easy to swallow and does not block your oesophagus or make you choke. You can read more about the capsule and test here.

Is it vegan and halal?

Yes — EndoSign® is suitable for vegans. It is also halal and kosher. The capsule is made from a material called HPMC, which is derived from plant fibres. 

How does capsule sponge testing work?

EndoSign® is a simple and quick capsule sponge test that helps your doctor to assess the health of your oesophagus. The test involves you swallowing a capsule attached to a thin, strong thread. The capsule contains a small sponge that is released after 7 minutes. Your doctor or nurse will collect a sample of cells from your oesophagus by gently removing the sponge from your mouth using the attached thread. These cells will then be looked at in a laboratory to check their health. Read this step-by-step guide to having the test.

Will I need to go to hospital?

Heartburn Health Checks can be carried out in any office-like setting. This includes local clinics, such as a GP surgery, as well as in a hospital as an outpatient appointment.

Do I need to prepare?

When your appointment is made, you will receive all the information you need. This may include how to take your normal medication and when to arrive at the clinic. People with conditions such as diabetes or those taking warfarin or other blood-thinning medication may receive additional instructions. You should avoid eating or drinking for 4 hours before your appointment. At your appointment, your doctor will ask a few questions and make sure you are comfortable before taking the test. You may feel thirsty after the test, so you may want to bring water with you. If you have any questions about your appointment, please speak to your doctor. 

How long does it take?

The time between swallowing the capsule and the sample being collected is 7 minutes. So, including your pre-test assessment, an appointment usually lasts less than 30 minutes. 

Are there risks?

Before the test, your doctor will speak to you about any potential side effects. EndoSign® has been clinically tested, and there have been no serious side effects reported. Most people have no issues swallowing the capsule, but the test will be stopped if you experience any problems or discomfort. Some people may have a mild sore throat after the test, but this usually goes away within 48 hours. There’s a very small risk of the thread separating from the sponge. However, no such events have been recorded when using EndoSign®. If this happens, it is not dangerous or painful, and you will have an endoscopy to remove it. There is a small chance you may experience bleeding after the test. If this happens, contact the clinic where you had your test. For any other questions or concerns, speak to your doctor.

Does it hurt?

The test should not cause any pain. When the sponge is removed, you may feel a brief sensation like your oesophagus is being brushed — but this only lasts a few seconds. You may have a local anaesthetic spray in your throat to avoid any discomfort.

Will I be sedated?

No, sedation (medicine to help you relax or put you to sleep) is not necessary. You may be offered a local anaesthetic spray to numb your throat, but your doctor or nurse will check if this is suitable.

Do I need to bring someone?

You will be awake during the test and there are no serious side effects, so you can come to the appointment on your own. Of course, you can always bring someone along for support.

Can I drive after the test?

Yes, you are able to drive once the test is complete. 

What will the results show?

The cells collected from your oesophagus are sent to a laboratory for analysis. Your doctor will receive the results in a few weeks, who will then share them with you. These will show if there have been any changes to the cells or if there are signs of cancer. The results will help your doctor decide if you need further tests (such as an endoscopy), if you need new medication or if no more action is needed.