Esophageal Dilation: Treatment for Difficulty Swallowing

When we think about our ability to swallow, we may get stuck on the throat alone. Structurally, the esophagus is also involved in our swallowing functions. This body part, the tube that connects the throat and stomach, may narrow for various reasons. When this happens, a range of symptoms may occur. Signs of a narrowed esophagus include:

  • Sensation that something is “stuck” in the throat
  • Trouble swallowing food that may get worse over time
  • Chest pain or discomfort while eating
  • Regurgitation of food or liquids
  • Weight loss
  • Dehydration
  • Coughing, especially at night

If you frequently experience these symptoms, you may be a great candidate for esophageal dilation. 

What is Esophageal Dilation?

Esophageal dilation is a treatment performed to widen the narrowed esophagus. At Gramercy Park Digestive Disease Center, our gastroenterologists have extensive experience performing this procedure using the most appropriate technique. There are several ways to widen the esophagus. One is to insert a series of flexible, thin tubes to resolve the blockage. The doctor may insert a balloon into the narrowed area and inflate it once it is in place. This widens the esophagus by breaking constricted muscle fibers in a controlled manner. 

Simple esophageal dilation is performed in a seated position. Before beginning, the doctor may apply a topical anesthetic spray into the throat. The procedures mentioned above typically take only a few minutes. Afterward, patients can return to all normal activities. Eating and drinking can resume a short time after the procedure. In most cases, simple esophageal dilation is immediately successful. 

Advantages of esophageal dilation include:

  • The procedure is virtually painless
  • Quick recovery
  • Relieves discomfort of esophageal stricture
  • Minimal side effects in most cases (mild sore throat is most common)
  • A single procedure may efficiently resolve blockages

What Causes the Esophagus to Narrow?

Narrowing of the esophagus is relatively uncommon. Many people do not realize that there is a known cause for their symptoms, which means they live with discomfort for some time before they receive an accurate diagnosis and treatment plant. Some of the common reasons for esophageal narrowing include:

  • Acid reflux / gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Scarring from acid reflux
  • Spasms called achalasia
  • Radiation therapy to the chest or neck
  • Damage caused by nasogastric tube or endoscopy
  • Swallowing harmful substances
  • Scarring from ingestion of caustic chemicals
  • Fibrous growths also known as Schatzi’s ring
  • Other esophagus motility disorders
  • Tumors

If you are experiencing the symptoms of esophageal stricture, schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor or contact us directly. Gramercy Park Digestive Disease Center is home to top NYC board-certified gastroenterology physicians with extensive experience in performing esophageal dilation. Call (212) 979-3237 or click here to submit a contact form.

Digestive Disease Treatment + Gastrointestinal Services + Endoscopic Procedures

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