Steakhouse syndrome is a condition in which a mass of food (called a bolus) becomes stuck in the lower part of the esophagus. The esophagus is the muscular tube that carries food and liquids from the mouth to the stomach.
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Steakhouse syndrome is caused by a mass of food, usually meat, blocking the passageway of the esophagus.
Factors that may increase your chance of steakhouse syndrome include:
Steakhouse syndrome may cause:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Imaging tests to evaluate the esophagus may include:
If the bolus does not pass into the stomach on its own, your doctor may consider treatment, such as:
If the bolus still does not pass or you are not able to swallow your saliva, the doctor may need to remove it from your esophagus. An endoscope can locate the bolus. Once the bolus has been found, tiny surgical instruments are passed down the endoscope to remove the bolus. In some case, the bolus may move into the stomach during the procedure.
Often, the doctor will also look for underlying conditions that may have put you at risk for this problem.
To help reduce your chance of steakhouse syndrome:
American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery
The American College of Gastroenterology
The Canadian Association of Gastroenterology
Canadian Society of Otolaryngology
Belafsky PC, Postma GN, et al. Steakhouse syndrome in a man with a lower esophageal ring and a hiatal hernia. Ear Nose Throat J. 2003;82(2):102.
Chae HS, Lee TK, et al. Two cases of steakhouse syndrome associated with nutcracker esophagus. Dis Esophagus. 2002;15(4):330-333.
DiPalma JA, Brady CE III. Steakhouse spasm. J Clin Gastroenterol. 1987;9(3):274-278.
Esophageal food bolus obstruction (steakhouse syndrome). National Center for Emergency Medicine Informatics. Available at:
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Accessed September 29, 2014.
Stadler J, Hölscher AH, et al. The "steakhouse syndrome." Primary and definitive diagnosis and therapy. Surg Endosc. 1989;3(4):195-198.
Last reviewed August 2014 by Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated: 9/30/2013