The esophagus is a long narrow tube that is used during the consumption of food by carrying food and liquid from your mouth to your stomach. If the esophagus becomes blocked or injured the delivery of food to your stomach could become disrupted.
An esophageal stricture can be caused by a number of reasons, including:
- Acid reflux
- Ingestion of harmful agents
- Schatzki’s ring
The most common cause of esophageal stricture is scarring of the esophagus due to repeated acid reflux, often a result of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This constriction often leads to trouble swallowing and the reoccurring sensation of food being stuck in the chest which often causes severe discomfort.
Preparing for Esophageal Dilation
The day of your esophageal dilation procedure, you will be instructed to refrain from all food and drink, including water. If you take any medications or struggle with any medical conditions it is important that you discuss your medical history with your physician to avoid any unnecessary complications. Also, make sure to inform your doctor of any allergies that you experience.
There are a number of treatment methods of esophageal dilation, and it is always important to remain educated and understand which procedure your physician is planning on pursuing prior to the day of your procedure.
What to expect during Esophageal Dilation
Each method of esophageal dilation has individual benefits and is the most appropriate form of treatment under certain circumstances. Different procedures for esophageal dilation include:
- Simple bougie dilation
- Guided wire bougie
- Balloon dilators
- Achalasia dilators
The simple bougie dilation is able to be completed in your doctor’s office with only a simple anesthetic spray on your throat. The guided wire bougie and balloon dilator are both conducted via endoscopy, and so frequently need to be completed in a hospital while the patient is placed under sedation. Achalasia dilation is completed with the assistance of x-rays. The time period necessary for esophageal dilation varies largely from method to method. While the simple bougie dilation will only encompass several minutes, other techniques may require up to half of an hour for completion. In almost all situations you will be able to resume regular activity, such as eating and drinking, soon after your exam is finished. The majority of patients suffer from no serious side effects after the procedure, though there is occasionally the risk of tear to the esophageal lining. Many patients experience a mild sore throat after esophageal dilation, but this symptom is temporary and will relieve itself over a short period of time.
Though esophageal dilation is often successful in relieving the discomfort of esophageal strictures, depending on the cause and severity of the blockage it is possible that multiple dilation procedures will be necessary to fully treat the symptoms that you are experiencing. Additionally, if your stricture was caused by acid reflux there may be medications available to help enhance the results of your dilation procedure that would reduce your need for additional treatment in the future. Your gastroenterologist will be able to determine the best course of treatment for your specific needs.