Esophageal dilation widens a narrowed section of the esophagus. This is the tube that carries food and liquids from the mouth to the stomach. An esophagus that is too narrow can make it hard to swallow.
Reasons for Procedure
This procedure is done to widen a narrow esophagus. Narrowing happens when there is a buildup of scar tissue because of:
- Gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD)
- Injury to the esophagus
- Structural problems
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Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:
- Excess bleeding
- Problems from anesthesia, such as wheezing or sore throat
- Blood clots
- A tear or hole in the esophageal lining
Things that may raise the risk of problems are:
- Chronic diseases, such as diabetes, obesity, or heart or lung problems
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
The surgical team may meet with you to talk about:
- Anesthesia options
- Any allergies you may have
- Current medicines, herbs, and supplements that you take and whether you need to stop taking them before surgery
- Fasting before surgery, such as avoiding food or drink after midnight the night before
- Whether you need a ride to and from surgery
A sedative may be given to help you relax. The doctor may also give:
- General anesthesia—you will be asleep
- Local anesthesia—the area will be numbed
Description of Procedure
The doctor will place a tube into the mouth and pass it to the esophagus. The tube has a tiny light and a camera that will help the doctor see the area. The doctor may also view the area using imaging methods.
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 dilator, 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.
Immediately After Procedure
How Long Will It Take?
About 15 minutes, but timing will depend on the size of the stricture
Will It Hurt?
Throat pain is common in the first 24 hours. Medicine and home care can help.
At the Care Center
After the procedure, the staff may check to make sure your gag reflex is working as it should.
It will take about a day for throat pain to go away. A special diet may be needed until the pain is gone. You should be able to go back to your normal activities the next day.
Call Your Doctor
Call your doctor if you have:
- Signs of infection, such as fever or chills
- Been coughing up blood or vomiting blood
- Pain in the esophagus
- Problems swallowing
- Nausea or vomiting
- Chest pain
- Breathing problems
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American College of Gastroenterology
American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy
Canadian Digestive Health Foundation
Eosinophilic esophagitis in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/eosinophilic-esophagitis-in-adults. Accessed December 3, 2020.
Esophageal dilatation. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia website. Available at: https://www.chop.edu/treatments/esophageal-dilatation#.VZLcV010zxM. Accessed December 3, 2020.
Ferreira CT, Vieira MC, et al. Eosinophilic esophagitis-Where are we today?. J Pediatr (Rio J). 2019 May ;95(3):275-281.
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 December 3, 2020.
Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD Last Updated: 4/20/2021