Understanding Esophageal Dilation
What is esophageal dilation?
Esophageal dilation is a procedure performed during an upper endoscopy to dilate, or stretch, a narrowed area of your esophagus. There are various techniques for dilation. Balloon dilators can be used. They are advanced through the scope and inflated in the narrowed area to stretch the area. Savary dilators (tapered flexible tubes) can also be used for esophageal dilation.
Why is esophageal dilation done?
The most common causes of a narrowing of the esophagus are strictures or rings. A stricture is a benign narrowing of the esophagus that can be caused by reflux. Radiation treatment can also cause a stricture. A Schatzki’s ring is also a common cause of a narrowing of the esophagus. This is a benign fibrous ring that forms in the lower part of the esophagus. Less common causes of narrowings in the esophagus are cancer, motility disorders, and webs. Patients with a narrowed esophagus may have the sensation of food getting stuck in their chest after swallowing.
How should I prepare for the procedure?
The preparation is the same as it is for a standard upper endoscopy. Please see the section describing the upper endoscopy.
What can I expect during esophageal dilation?
You will lie on your left side. The doctor will place a plastic bite block in your mouth to keep your mouth open during the procedure. You will receive IV sedation. Your doctor will pass the endoscope through your mouth and into the esophagus, stomach and duodenum. The endoscope doesn’t interfere with your breathing. During the endoscopy, your doctor will make the decision as to whether a dilation is necessary and by which method it should be done.
What can I expect after esophageal dilation?
After the endoscopy and dilation, you will be observed in the recovery room for a short period of time. After that, you will be able to return home. You will not be able to drive because of the sedation that you received. You may resume your diet after the procedure unless your doctor instructs you otherwise. Most patients do not experience any symptoms after the procedure, but you might experience a mild sore throat.
What are the potential complications of esophageal dilation?
Although complications are rare, they can occur even if the procedure is performed correctly. A perforation, or hole, in the lining of the esophagus occurs in a very small percentage of cases. This could require surgery. There are also possible risks of side effects from sedatives. It is important to recognize early signs of complications. If you have a fever, chest pain, trouble breathing, difficulty swallowing, bleeding, or black bowel movements after the procedure, notify your doctor immediately.
Will repeat dilations be necessary?
Depending on the severity of the narrowing and the cause of the narrowing, repeat dilations may be necessary. This allows for the dilation to be don gradually and this decreases the risk of complications. Once the narrowing is completely dilated, repeat dilations may not be necessary.