An esophageal dilation is often performed when patients experience difficulty swallowing, regurgitation of food or liquids, heartburn, or frequent burping or hiccups.
What Is an Esophageal Dilation?
Esophageal dilation is a procedure that enlarges a narrowed, or strictured, part of the esophagus. In some cases, it is used to dilate the narrowed exit from the stomach into the first part of the small intestine. After gastric bariatric surgery, for example, sometimes this area has scars and food becomes trapped, so dilation is necessary. Dilation is performed using special catheters with expandable balloons, or by passing a specially designed tapered plastic tube over a guidewire.
How Do I Prepare for my Procedure?
The procedure is part of an upper GI endoscopy. There are ordinarily no special preparations just for the dilation portion of the procedure, although your doctor may recommend you stop certain blood thinners ahead of time.
How Is the Procedure Performed?
When dilation is necessary, your physician may pass a balloon catheter down the length of the endoscope, positioning the catheter across the narrowed area and then expand the balloons to the desired diameter.
What Can I Expect After My Procedure?
After the dilation is done, you will probably be observed for a short period of time in a recovery area and then allowed to return to your normal activities. You may resume drinking after the sedation has worn off. Any special diet instructions, if needed, will be provided. Most patients experience no unusual symptoms after this procedure, but you might experience a mild sore throat for the remainder of the day.
How Long and Where Does the Esophageal Dilation Take Place?
The procedure is usually done in an outpatient endoscopy center, and sometimes at a hospital’s outpatient GI unit. The dilation adds a little time to the endoscopy procedure, up to 15 minutes, but the amount of time it takes will depend on the severity of the condition being treated.
Are Repeat Dilations Necessary?
Depending on the degree and cause of the narrowing, it is common to undergo repeat esophageal dilations. This allows the dilation to be performed gradually and decreases the risk of complications. Once the stricture, or narrowed esophagus, is completely dilated, repeat dilations may not be required. If the stricture was due to acid reflux, acid blocker medicines can decrease the risk of stricture recurrence. Your doctor will advise you on this.
Are There Any Complications Involved With Esophageal Dilation?
Complications are rare when the procedure is performed by specially trained doctors. In a very small percentage of cases, a tear or perforation in the lining of the esophagus may occur and require surgery. There are also possible side effects from the sedative medication used. Early signs of possible complications after an esophageal dilation include chest pain, fever, trouble breathing, difficulty swallowing, and bleeding or black bowel movements. Tell your doctor immediately if you experience any of these symptoms after your procedure.
Are Dilation Procedures Done In Other GI Regions?
Dilation of colon strictures, or strictures with J pouches, are sometimes performed. The basic process is similar, and the main difference is the scope used is a colonoscope, or a scope passed through the rectum into the intestinal J pouch, as is done during a colonoscopy. Bile duct or pancreas duct strictures are treated during endoscopic retrograde cholangio-pancreatography (ERCP).
For more information about esophageal dilation, call the location nearest you.