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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This condition happens when a mass of food, usually meat, blocks the passageway of the esophagus.
Risk factors include:
Symptoms may include:
These symptoms may be due to other conditions. If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor.
Your doctor will:
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. They will use an endoscope to locate the bolus. Once the bolus has been found, tools (such as snares, forceps, and net) 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 getting steakhouse syndrome, take the following steps:
American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery
The American College of Gastroenterology
The Canadian Association of Gastroenterology
Canadian Society of Otolaryngology
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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 November 22, 2010.
Stadler J, Hölscher AH, et al. The "steakhouse syndrome." Primary and definitive diagnosis and therapy. Surg Endosc. 1989;3(4):195-198.
Last reviewed September 2013 by Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated: 9/30/2013