Esophageal Dilation

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Overview

The esophagus is the tube through which food passes from the mouth to the stomach. If the esophagus becomes narrow in parts, often due to scarring from refluxed stomach acid (gastroesophageal reflex disease, or GERD), a dilation procedure will help stretch it back to a comfortable width.

An esophageal dilation can be performed in a few ways. Among the most common are:

  • As part of an upper endoscopy – The gastroenterologist inserts a flexible tube equipped with a tiny camera and light (endoscope) into the esophagus and passes either a dilating balloon or plastic dilators through the tube to widen the esophagus.
  • With a weighted dilator – With this option, the doctor passes a weighted, tapered dilating instrument into the narrowed area of the esophagus to slowly widen it.

While GERD is the most common cause of this esophageal narrowing, other conditions, including excess tissue or esophageal cancer, can be factors.

Preparation:

The patient should expect to be sedated for this procedure and therefore will need a ride home. Fasting, for six or more hours, also will be required to ensure the esophagus is clear. The patient should bring a complete list of current medications.

Conditions treated or diagnosed by this procedure:

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