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Esophageal Dilation

What is Esophageal Dilation?

Esophageal dilation is a procedure which dilates or widens a narrowed or constricted section of the esophagus. Also referred to as the swallowing tube, your esophagus allows food and drinks to pass through it to your stomach.

Indications for Esophageal Dilation

Some of the indications for esophageal dilation include:

  • Peptic stricture: This condition is caused due to acid reflux which irritates the mucosal lining of the esophagus.
  • Schatzki's ring: This is an abnormal tissue ring that develops at the junction between the esophagus and the stomach.
  • Achalasia: This is a condition in which the muscles that control the movement of food through the esophagus and esophageal sphincter do not function properly to allow passage of food into the stomach.

Preparation for Esophageal Dilation

  • You should inform your doctor of any medications, vitamins, or supplements that you are taking. Certain blood thinners may need to be avoided.
  • Inform your doctor if you are allergic to any medication or anesthesia.
  • Avoid food and drink for several hours before the procedure.
  • Arrange for someone to drive you back home after the procedure.

Esophageal Dilation Procedure

  • The procedure is performed under general anesthesia or local anesthesia to just numb your throat.
  • The physician inserts an endoscope, a flexible tube-like device with a light source and camera, through your mouth into your esophagus. The endoscope does not interfere with your breathing. Fluoroscopy may be used to create a continuous x-ray image on a monitor throughout the procedure.
  • The strictures are widened by the use of certain special instruments, which are carefully inserted into your esophagus through your mouth. Different types of instruments can be used for this process and they include:
    • Balloon dilator: A tiny, deflated balloon is inserted into the area of stricture through an endoscope. The balloon is slowly inflated and later deflated when the stricture is widened enough. 
    • Guided wire dilator: A thin wire is carefully eased down the esophagus. A small tube that is wider on one end is guided down the wire into the stricture to stretch it. 
    • Bougies: These are cone-shaped, weighted tubes of different sizes. These cones will be inserted one after the other, in the ascending order of size, till the stricture is inflated to the required size. 
  • The procedure may last for15 to 20 minutes.

Post Operative Care after Esophageal Dilation

After the procedure, you will need to spend a few hours in the recovery room under observation. You may experience a sore throat and minor cramps. You can drink again after the numbness in your throat goes away. You can resume eating the next day.

Risks and Possible Complications of Esophageal Dilation

Some of the risks and complications of esophageal dilation include:

  • Infection
  • Presence of a hole or tear in the esophagus lining
  • Anesthetic complications
  • Bleeding
  • American Board of Internal Medicine
  • American Medical Association
  • American College of Gastroenterology
  • Texas Medical Association
  • Memorial Hermann Foundation
  • HCA Healthcare
  • Methodist Church
  • Howard University College of Medicine
  • American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy
  • UT Health San Antonio