Gastrointestinal Motility Center
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The Gastrointestinal Motility Center at UCSF Medical Center offers state-of-the art tests to evaluate gastrointestinal (GI) motility and secretory function disorders that can impair the digestive system. Since it was established in 1999, the center has cared for more than 4,000 patients, making it one of the country's top 10 motility disorders centers in number of patients seen.

Our team includes specialists in fields such as gastroenterology, radiology, nuclear medicine and surgery, who collaborate to provide the most effective care.

Conditions Evaluated

The gastrointestinal tract consists of the mouth, esophagus, stomach and small and large intestine. All work together to move food along the digestive tract while absorbing nutrients and discarding waste products.

The organs of the digestive system contain muscles that help propel food, fluids and waste through a child's digestive tract. The movement of these muscles is known as motility. When a child's motility is not working normally, this can impair digestion and result in a motility disorder. These conditions can cause a variety of symptoms, such as heartburn, constipation, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain and bloating.

Secretory function refers to the secretion of acid, mucus, enzymes known as proteases and hormones that aid in the digestion process.

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Motility disorders of the esophagus and stomach encompass a variety of conditions, some of which include:

  • Achalasia — Achalasia affects the esophagus, the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach. When a child swallows, the muscular contractions of the esophagus propel food or fluid from the throat to the stomach. Achalasia affects the esophageal muscle's normal ability to move food into the stomach. The condition also causes the lower esophageal sphincter, or LES, located between the esophagus and stomach, to remain closed. This results in a back up of food. Vomiting, chest pain, heartburn and weight loss can occur.
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) — Gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD, also known as acid reflux, occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter — the muscle located at the end of the esophagus — fails to operate properly. The lower esophageal sphincter opens during swallowing to allow the passage of food into the stomach and then closes quickly to prevent food juices from returning, or refluxing, back into the esophagus. GERD may cause the acid contents in your child's stomach to back up into your esophagus, causing heartburn or other symptoms.
  • Gastroparesis — Gastroparesis is a disorder affecting the nerves and muscles of the stomach, causing a "paralyzed" stomach that can't perform its normal function. Normally, your child's stomach contracts slowly to squeeze solid food into small particles, which are then pushed into the small bowel. With gastroparesis, food is not moved into the small bowel and remains in the stomach for longer than usual. If food lingers too long in the stomach, problems such as bacterial overgrowth can develop in the small bowel. Food can harden into solid masses called bezoars that may cause nausea, vomiting and an obstruction in the stomach.


We offer a wide range of advanced tests to diagnose and evaluate gastrointestinal motility disorders. These include:

  • Stationary Esophageal Manometry — Esophageal manometry is a test that measures the pressures in your esophagus when you child is resting and swallowing, which indicate if the esophagus is working normally. This test is used to evaluate esophageal motility disorders, such as achalasia and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
  • Gastric Analysis — This test assesses the amount of acids and other secretions in the stomach. It is used to diagnose secretory function problems affecting the stomach.
  • Pancreatic Secretin Test — This test measures the ability of the pancreas to respond to secretin, a hormone produced by the small intestine when partially digested food has moved into the intestine from the stomach. It helps evaluate and diagnose conditions that may involve abnormal pancreatic function, such as chronic pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer.
  • 24-hour Esophageal pH Monitoring — This test helps determine if abnormal amounts of acid are backing up from the stomach into the esophagus, leading to gastroesophageal reflux disease. We offer the latest technology for 24-hour pH monitoring, including a wireless pH monitoring probe, trans-nasal dual probe pH monitoring and conventional trans-nasal pH monitoring. We will discuss the appropriate approach for your child's individual case.
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You'll need a referral from your child's pediatrician or specialist to make an appointment. Once you have the referral, please call the number below.

Getting Here

Gastrointestinal Motility Center
Ron Conway Family Gateway Medical Building
1825 Fourth St., Sixth Floor
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 353-2813
Fax: (415) 353-2505

Hours: Monday to Thursday
8 a.m. – noon

What to Bring

  • Health insurance information including authorizations or referrals
  • List of your child's prescription medications and dosages
  • List of medications your child is allergic to
  • List of questions you may have
  • Recent test results related to your child's condition
  • Paper and pencil to take notes

Research and Clinical Trials


Parking at Mission Bay

Public parking options at UCSF's Mission Bay campus include:

Weekdays: $3.75/hour
Daily Maximum: $30/day

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UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay is accessible via the following Muni bus routes:

  • 22
  • 55
  • T-Third Street line

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Free UCSF shuttles connect the Mission Bay campus with our Mount Zion and Parnassus campuses as well as other UCSF locations and the 16th Street BART station.

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