Esophageal Dilation

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What is esophageal dilation?

Patients with an abnormal narrowing of the esophagus (the tube that connects the mouth and the stomach) may experience trouble swallowing; food feels like it is stuck, or not going down properly, causing discomfort or pain. At worst, food may become stuck altogether in the esophagus, which can be a medical emergency.

Esophageal dilatation is an outpatient procedure during which your doctor dilates, or stretches, a narrowed area of your esophagus. The dilation occurs with you under anesthesia. We pass a balloon through a flexible endoscope and carefully inflate it under direct visualization inside the narrowed area, or we pass a tapered, flexible, tube-shaped dilator through the stricture.

Using either technique, dilation is minimally invasive, painless, and safe, and can relieve your symptoms of obstruction promptly and effectively. Dilation procedures typically last about 15 minutes.

What causes esophageal narrowing?

The most common cause of narrowing of the esophagus is scarring or inflammation related to reflux of stomach acid into the lower esophagus. This occurs at the lowest part of the esophagus, where it joins the stomach. Other medical conditions that can cause the esophagus to narrow or decrease its flexibility include:

    • Membranes (“webs” or “rings”), composed of your esophageal lining
    • Neuromuscular esophageal disorders
    • Inflammatory disorders of the esophagus such as eosinophilic (allergic) esophagitis
    • Esophageal cancer
    • Stomach cancer that has grown up into the lower esophagus
    • Benign growths in the esophagus

What should I expect after the dilation?

In most cases, you will go home right after the procedure and return to a normal diet and experience little or no discomfort. In some instances, especially if there is allergic type esophagitis, there may be some transient pain related to the stretching, which you can be treat as needed with over the counter pain medications. In others, your doctor may ask you to take a liquid diet for 24-48 hours.

In many instances, we accomplish the full dilation at one visit, but in others, safety considerations require a series of smaller, progressive dilations, typically about a month apart.

In some cases, we will also recommend ancillary testing, such as direct measurement of acid reflux, or of esophageal contraction (“motility”), or imaging studies such as CT scan or barium swallows.

Our Endoscopy Centers

The Endoscopy Center of New York and Carnegie Hill Endoscopy are 12,000 square foot, state-of-the-art facilities located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. NYGA physicians founded, direct, and perform procedures at these centers. We operate these facilities jointly with the Mount Sinai Hospital.

The centers have multiple large, fully equipped procedure rooms, a well-appointed, comfortable waiting room, a private registration area, and spacious pre-assessment and recovery areas. The centers have hosted more than 100,000 endoscopic procedures.

An individual anesthesiologist is dedicated to each patient for the duration of his or her procedure. We employ state-of-the-art vital signs monitoring throughout. This ensures comfort and safety.

Typically, your health insurance will cover all facility charges, anesthesia services, and pathology services related to your procedure.

By: New York Gastroenteroloy

Reviewed by: James George, MD


Last Reviewed: Apr 2nd, 2021

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