Steakhouse Syndrome

(Esophageal Food Bolus Obstruction)


Steakhouse syndrome is when a mass of food becomes stuck on the way to the stomach. It gets stuck in the tube that connects the mouth and stomach.

The Esophagus

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Steakhouse syndrome happens when a large amount of food is swallowed. It is more common with more solid foods like meat.

Risk Factors

Things that make steakhouse syndrome more likely are:


Steakhouse syndrome may cause:

  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Drooling
  • Coughing, gagging, choking


You will be asked about your symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. Tests may be done if it keeps happening with no clear cause. Tests may include:


The food may move down to the stomach on its own. To help it move the doctor may recommend:

  • Drinking a carbonated beverage.
  • An injection of glucagon. It will ease pressure in your throat and may allow food to pass.

An endoscopy may be done if the food does not pass. A scope will be passed through the mouth and down the throat. Small tools will be passed down the tube to remove the food or push it down to the stomach.

Your doctor will look for possible reasons the food was blocked. It may help to prevent another event.


To help reduce your chance of steakhouse syndrome:

  • Chew slowly and until the food is small enough to safely swallow.
  • Follow your treatment plan for health issues in the throat or stomach.


American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery
American College of Gastroenterology


Canadian Association of Gastroenterology
Canadian Society of Otolaryngology


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Thimmapuram J. Oosterveen S. Grim R. Thimmapuram J. Oosterveen S. Grim R. Use of glucagon in relieving esophageal food bolus impaction in the era of eosinophilic esophageal infiltration. Dysphagia 2013, 28:212-6.
Last reviewed September 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated: 6/10/2020

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