Esophagectomy is a procedure to remove part or all of the esophagus. The esophagus is the tube that runs from the mouth to the stomach.
Esophagectomy may be used to treat:
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Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
Before your procedure, talk to your doctor about ways to manage factors that may increase your risk of complications, such as:
Your doctor will likely do the following:
Leading up to your procedure:
General anesthesia will be used. You will be asleep during the procedure.
Depending on the area that needs to be removed, the doctor will make an incision in the neck or abdomen using one of these techniques:
A replacement esophagus will be formed with part of the stomach or large intestine. The remainder of the esophagus will be attached to this new esophagus. In some cases, lymph nodes in the area will also be removed. One or more chest tubes will be placed to drain fluids. Lastly, the incisions will be closed with stitches or staples.
About 6 hours
Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications.
This procedure is done in a hospital setting. The usual length of stay is 1-2 weeks. Your doctor may choose to keep you longer if complications arise.
You will not be able to eat or drink anything during the first week after surgery. You will get nutrition through a feeding tube. Within 7-14 days, you will have a swallowing test to check for leaks. If there are no leaks, your diet will gradually progress from clear liquids to soft, solid meals. You will probably be able to return to a normal diet after about a month. Your stomach may be smaller, so you will need to eat smaller portions.
You will also need to do deep breathing exercises. You may be given an incentive spirometer. This is a device to help you breath deeply.
During your stay, the hospital staff will take steps to reduce your chance of infection, such as:
There are also steps you can take to reduce your chance of infection, such as:
You will need to restrict your activities, including heavy lifting, for 6-8 weeks. Follow instructions on home exercises to promote healing. Monitor your incision for infection. Follow instructions on cleaning and changing the dressing.
It is important for you to monitor your recovery after you leave the hospital. Alert your doctor to any problems right away. If any of the following occur, call your doctor:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Cancer Society
National Cancer Institute
Esophagectomy. Boston Medical Center website. Available at: http://www.bmc.org/esophagealtherapies/treatments/esophagectomy.htm. Accessed August 14, 2013.
Esophagectomy. Massachusetts General Hospital website. Available at: http://www.massgeneral.org/digestive/services/procedure.aspx?id=2296. Accessed August 14, 2013.
Esophagectomy. Memorial Hermann website. Available at: http://www.memorialhermann.org/digestive/esophagectomy. Accessed August 14, 2013.
Esophagectomy. University of California San Francisco website. Available at: http://surgery.ucsf.edu/conditions--procedures/esophagectomy.aspx. Accessed August 14, 2013.
Surgical removal of the esophagus (esophagectomy). UC Davis Health System website. Available at: http://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/surgery/specialties/cardio/esophagus.html. Accessed August 14, 2013.
Last reviewed June 2015 by Michael Woods, MDLast Updated: 5/23/2014