What is an esophageal dilation procedure?

An esophageal dilation is a procedure performed to stretch or widen a narrowed section of the esophagus, the tube that allows food to pass from the throat to the stomach. A narrowing (stricture) of the esophagus usually occurs when stomach acids damage the lining of the esophagus over time, leading to inflammation and scar tissue which causes the esophagus to narrow. The most common cause of esophageal damage is gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Some esophageal strictures come from an allergic condition known as Eosinophilic Esophagitis.

Narrowing of the esophagus makes it difficult to swallow, prevents foods and fluids from reaching the stomach, and increases the risk of choking. Foods such as dry meat or bread can sometimes get stuck and require emergency removal.

Why is an esophageal dilation performed?

Esophageal dilations are recommended for individuals experiencing difficulty swallowing, known as dysphagia, or have the sensation of food being stuck in the chest. Esophageal dilations are performed to treat:

  • Peptic stricture caused by acid reflux damaging the esophagus lining, creating scar tissue and inevitably narrowing the esophagus.
  • Schatzki’s ring, which is an abnormal ring of tissue where the esophagus meets the stomach, causing trouble swallowing and leading to food getting stuck in the esophagus
  • Achalasia, a condition affecting the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). The LES is a muscular ring that opens (relaxes) when you swallow. The LES does not open or relax for individuals with achalasia, leading to medical complications.
  • Eosinophilic esophagitis caused by inflammation of the esophagus formed from environmental triggers like food allergies.

How is an esophageal dilation performed?

The procedure itself takes about 15-minutes. You will be given local anesthesia to numb your throat and relax you during the procedure.

A small, thin, flexible endoscope containing a light and camera is inserted through the mouth and into the esophagus, allowing Dr. Cooley to see inside the esophagus. Depending on the size and cause of the stricture, various tools are carefully guided to expand (dilate) the esophagus, which includes:

  • Balloon dilator – A balloon is inserted and slowly filled with air. Once the esophagus is widened to the right size, the air is removed.
  • Guided wire dilator – A thin wire is inserted into the stricture to stretch it.
  • Bougies – A weighted, cone-shaped tube are inserted and increase in size until the stricture is stretched to the right size.

After the procedure, you will then be taken to the recovery room, where a nurse will monitor you closely until you are fully awake. Dr. Cooley will go over the results of your exam with you before you leave the endoscopy center. Although you will be awake before you leave, it is essential that you bring a friend or relative with you that can safely drive you home.

You might experience a sore throat for the remainder of the day. You’ll be able to drink fluids once the numbness in the throat goes away, and you can resume eating solid foods the following day.

Depending on the cause and size of the stricture, you might need to have the esophageal dilation repeated, Dr. Cooley will go over this in your treatment plan.

What are the complications and risks associated with esophageal dilation?

Complications are rare; however, you can experience infection or a tear in the esophagus lining as a result of the dilation. There are also risks associated with anesthesia that will be outlined to you prior to the procedure. You will be closely monitored by Dr. Cooley and the nursing staff at the Endoscopy Center of Plano before, during, and after your procedure.

Disclaimer: The information presented on this website is not intended to take the place of your personal physician’s advice and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Discuss this information with your healthcare provider to determine what is right for you. All information is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions.

This website is owned and managed by Brian Cooley, MD. Any information, offers, or instruction as written, inferred, or implied is the sole responsibility of Brian Cooley, MD, and does not warrant claim or representation, inherent, or implied of DHAT, its subsidiaries, or employees.