What is Esophageal Dilation?
Esophageal dilation is a procedure that allows your doctor to dilate, or stretch, a narrowed area of your esophagus [swallowing tube]. When necessary, it is performed as an additional procedure during upper endoscopy.
Why is it Done?
The most common cause of narrowing of the esophagus, or stricture, is scarring of the esophagus from reflux of acid occurring in patients with heartburn. Patients with a narrowed portion of the esophagus often have trouble swallowing; food feels like it is “stuck” in the chest region, causing discomfort or pain. Other causes of esophageal narrowing are webs or rings (which are thick layers of excess tissue), cancer of the esophagus or scarring after radiation treatment.
How Should I Prepare for the Procedure?
An empty stomach allows for the best and safest examination, so you should have nothing to drink, including water, for at least six hours before the examination. We will tell you when to start fasting.
Tell us in advance about any medications you take, particularly aspirin products or anticoagulants (blood thinners). Most medications can be continued as usual, but you might need to adjust your usual dose before the examination. Your doctor will give you specific guidance. Tell us if you have any allergies to medications or if you have medical conditions such as heart or lung disease. Also, tell us if you require antibiotics prior to dental procedures because you might need antibiotics prior to esophageal dilation as well.
What Can I Expect During Esophageal Dilation?
After the dilation is done, you will probably be observed for a short period of time and then allowed to return to your normal activities. Most patients experience no symptoms after this procedure and can resume eating the same day, but you might experience a mild sore throat for the remainder of the day. You will not be allowed to drive after the procedure even though you might not feel tired. You should arrange for someone to accompany you home, because the sedatives might affect your judgment and reflexes for the rest of the day.
What are the Potential Complications of Esophageal Dilation?
Although complications can occur even when the procedure is performed correctly, they are rare when performed by doctors who are specially trained. A perforation, or hole, of the esophagus lining occurs in a small percentage of cases and may require surgery. A tear of the esophagus lining may occur and bleeding may result. Complications from heart or lung diseases are potential risks if sedatives are used.
It is important to recognize early signs of possible complications If you have chest pain, fever, difficulty swallowing, bleeding or black bowel movements after the test, tell us immediately.
Will Repeat Dilations be Necessary?
Depending on the degree and cause of narrowing of your esohagus, it is common to require repeat dilations. This allows the dilation to be performed gradually and decreases the risk of the procedure. Once the stricture, or narrowed esophagus, is completely dilated, repeat dilations may not be required. If the stricture was due to acid reflux, acid-suppressing medicines can decrease the risk of stricture recurrence.