Orange County DUI: Proving GERD With Medical Tests
If you were charged with an Orange County DUI based on the results of a breath test and you have a condition known as GERD, you may have a strong medical defense. GERD occurs when stomach acid refluxes of flows backward into the esophagus. If a person with GERD drinks alcohol, alcohol from the stomach can flow back into the mouth and be mixed with the breath tested by the breathalyzer. The result will be an elevated alcohol concentration.
To raise the GERD defense in court you will need medical proof that you have the condition. Two tests are typically administered to confirm a diagnosis of GERD: an endoscopy and a 24-hour pH test. If you have heartburn, but have never had these tests, your Orange County DUI attorney may ask you to undergo them to obtain proof of GERD that can be used to discredit your breath test result.
The Endoscopy Test
This test is done to diagnose GERD. During an endoscopy, the doctor inserts a small tube with a camera on the end through the mouth into the esophagus. This enables the doctor to see the lining of the esophagus and stomach. Before inserting the tube, your gastroenterologist may administer a mild sedative to help you relax. The doctor may also spray your throat with an analgesic spray to make the procedure more comfortable for you. This acid reflux test typically lasts about 20 minutes. It is not painful and will not interfere with your ability to breathe.
While this test may detect some complications of GERD, only about half the people with acid reflux disease have visible changes to the lining of their esophagus.
The 24-hour pH Test
This test uses a pH monitor to record the acidity in the esophagus over a 24-hour period. It will tell (1) how many episodes of reflux the person has during the day; (2) whether the episode occurred while the person was upright or reclining; and (3) how long each episode lasted.
For instance, the pH test could show that an individual was having a major episode more often than once an hour. A single episode may last three minutes or longer, and if the breath testing is administered in the midst of an episode, the results could be greatly amplified. In addition, in some people, the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is open, causing a constant reflux/regurgitation, which could invalidate the breath test result.
In one method of administering this test, a small tube with a pH sensor on the end is passed through the nose into the lower esophagus. The tube is left in place for 24 hours with the portion exiting the nose affixed to the side of the face. It will be connected to a small recording device that you can wear or carry. During the course of this acid reflux test, you will record when you are eating or drinking in a diary. You will also push a specific button on the recording device to indicate when you are experiencing acid reflux symptoms. This detailed information will allow the doctor to analyze and interpret your test results.
A newer, wireless version of this test is now being used. In this version a small pH sensor is affixed to your lower esophagus using suction. The small probe is able to communicate wirelessly with a recording device outside your body for 48 hours. The probe ultimately falls off and passes through the remainder of the digestive tract. Many patients have found the wireless pH monitoring exam to be far more pleasant than the traditional version. Both techniques yield similar information.
Contact Orange County DUI Lawyers
The Orange County DUI lawyers at Coffey and Coffey are experienced in defending clients with GERD and can help you gather the evidence you need to build an effective defense for your DUI case. For a free consultation, please call us at (800) 706-7888 today.