The esophagus is a tube that carries food and liquids from the mouth to the stomach. If it's too narrow, you may have problems when you swallow.
During an esophageal dilation, a scope is used to widen the narrowed part. This makes it easier to swallow and get proper nutrition.
The narrowing is called a stricture. This happens when there is a buildup of scar tissue because of:
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Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems such as:
Your chances of problems may be higher for:
In the days leading up to the procedure:
Talk to your doctor about:
In some cases, general anesthesia will be used. You will be asleep. A local anesthetic may also be used to numb the area first. A sedative may be given to help you relax.
An esophageal dilation will happen during an endoscopy. The doctor will place a tube into the mouth. It then goes down into the esophagus. The tube has a tiny light and a camera. This will allow it easier for the doctor to see certain structures.
Fluoroscopy may also be used. This is mainly done when a dilator is being placed. X-rays help the doctor see where the dilator is.
The doctor will decide which type of dilator to use when the stricture is found. There are many types of tube shaped devices. The doctor may choose a plastic or a balloon dilator. This will depend on how narrow the area is.
For the plastic type, a scope is used to place a guide wire into the esophagus. This will allow the doctor to place the dilator in the correct spot. The scope will be taken out. A tapered dilator will be placed through the mouth and throat to the site. The doctor may need to do this process many times using wider dilators.
If the balloon type is used, it will also be inserted using a scope. The dilator is placed in the correct position. The balloon is inflated to the size needed to widen the stricture.
About 15 minutes, but timing will depend on the size of the stricture
Anesthesia will prevent pain during the procedure. You will have a sore throat afterwards.
You will be watched by the healthcare staff while you recover. They will check to make sure your gag reflex is working as it should. The gag reflex keeps you from choking.
To help you get better faster:
Call your doctor if any of these occur:
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
American College of Gastroenterology
American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy
Canadian Digestive Health Foundation
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Esophageal dilation—frequently asked questions. World Labaroscopy Hospital website. Available at: https://www.laparoscopyhospital.com/esophagial-dilation.html. Accessed August 14, 2018.
Kafrouni M. Esophageal dilation. Memorial Hermann Esophageal Disease Center website. Available at: http://www.memorialhermann.org/digestive/esophageal-dialation. Accessed August 14, 2018.
Systemic sclerosis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116347/Systemic-sclerosis. Updated July 25, 2018. Accessed August 14, 2018.
Understanding esophageal dilation. American Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy website. Available at: https://www.asge.org/home/for-patients/patient-information/understanding-eso-dilation-updated. Accessed August 14, 2018.
Last reviewed June 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Daus Mahnke, MD Last Updated: 8/14/2018