If you are experiencing discomfort that feels like you have food lodged in your sternum, you may be experiencing symptoms of an oesophageal stricture. A stricture refers to a narrowed part of your oesophagus and can make actions, such as swallowing, painful.
In this case, the condition can be efficiently treated and corrected with an oesophageal dilation. The standard procedure is highly efficient in relieving strictures and resolving any future pain you may experience when eating or drinking.
Your oesophagus (commonly known as a gullet) is the muscular tube that runs down your chest, connecting your throat to your stomach. The primary role of your oesophagus is to pass food and liquid from your mouth into your stomach. However, this may become difficult when the tube narrows.
An oesophageal dilation, also referred to as esophageal dilation, is a procedure that stretches and widens a narrowed section of your oesophagus. The process involves a range of surgical techniques, all of which help expand the width of your oesophagus to relieve discomfort when eating or drinking.
If you’re experiencing trouble swallowing, you may need oesophageal dilation. Commonly, this symptom is an indicator of the following problems:
These conditions are manageable, with oesophageal dilation being the preferred treatment method.
If you have been experiencing symptoms which may suggest you have a narrowed oesophagus, you should consult your local doctor. During this appointment, they will refer you to a gastroenterology centre for further examination.
A gastroenterologist can carry out a range of investigations to determine if you need an oesophageal dilation.
The most common points of investigation include:
Once a gastroenterologist confirms the need for an oesophageal dilation, they will then provide you with information tailored towards your condition and obtain your consent to complete the procedure.
On the day of your oesophageal dilation, ensure that you fast at least 6 hours before the procedure (unless advised otherwise by your gastroenterologist). This is because an empty stomach will allow a clear view of your oesophagus, alongside minimising the risk of complications.
A helpful tip is to try booking your appointment for the morning and avoid eating after midnight. This will allow you to sleep during the fasting period, making it easier to prepare for the procedure.
You should inform your gastroenterologist if you take any blood thinners, insulin, or other prescription medication. The gastroenterologist will inform you of which medications you should stop taking or, recommend taking a smaller dose in the days prior to the procedure.
You must also let the gastroenterologist know if you have any pre-existing conditions. In particular, if you have a heart or lung disease, you must tell your gastroenterologist as this can hinder the performance of the procedure.
Ultimately, these are critical steps in minimising the risk of complications occurring during the procedure.
Before the procedure, you will be given a local anaesthetic to numb your oesophagus. As a result, you will not feel any pain during the dilation; however, you may experience some slight pressure around your throat and chest region.
If you feel uncomfortable about the invasive nature of the procedure, you can also request a general anaesthetic for sedation.
Following this, an endoscope is passed through your mouth and inserted into your oesophagus. This will allow the performing physician to reassess the area of concern and examine the size of the stricture.
The results from the endoscopy will ultimately guide the physician’s choice of dilatation technique, as there are several methods to treat strictures.
Such methods depend on the size, shape and location of the stricture.
Of these include:
These straightforward procedure techniques should take no longer than 15 minutes.
While all methods are adequate, the Centre for Gastrointestinal prefers using the balloon dilatation technique due to its effectiveness and simplicity.
Following your procedure, you will need to stay in a recovery room for 2 hours for observation. During this time, either your physician or medical professional will provide you with information concerning fluid intake, diet change and medication.
After your 2 hour observation period, you can return home provided that you aren’t experiencing trouble breathing or fever. We recommend organising someone to collect you from the hospital, as you should not be operating heavy machinery for at least 12 hours following the completion of the procedure.
To avoid any complications, you should ensure to follow your doctor’s orders alongside these general guidelines:
You may experience a mild sore throat and minimal chest pain following your procedure. However, most patients experience no symptoms of discomfort after an oesophageal dilation.
If you are experiencing a sore throat, consider consuming warm liquids and soft foods to aid in your recovery.
If you are still experiencing throat pain and have difficulty swallowing in the days following your dilation, seek medical attention. Alternatively, if you’re worried about your inability to swallow, contact our friendly staff at 1300 580 239.
Unfortunately, oesophageal dilation can only be used to treat and manage strictures, not cure them. It is not uncommon for stricture recurrence, which may result in you undergoing another dilation procedure.
However, the benefits of dilation outweigh the minimal inconvenience of undergoing the procedure multiple times.
There are a range of benefits that you can enjoy immediately after your oesophageal dilation.
While uncommon, it is essential to understand that there are possible complications involved with oesophageal dilations.
Like any surgery, there is a risk in administering the anaesthetics. For this reason, it is critical to inform your gastroenterologist of any medications, allergies or preexisting conditions that you have before your procedure.
Another complication is that there is a risk of perforating the oesophagus lining during the procedure. Perforation occurs due to the mishandling of medical instruments and can result in bleeding. If you cough up blood following the procedure, seek medical attention immediately as you may need surgery to correct the error.
You can expect to fully recover within 24 hours following your dilation. It is normal to have chest pain or a sore throat after the procedure. However, these symptoms should clear after a day.
The success rate for dilation procedures is exceptionally high. Medical studies have found that the balloon dilation of the narrowed area in the oesophagus is 90% successful. Read the study here.
No. Before your procedure a doctor will administer a local anaesthetic to numb your oesophagus. The only symptoms you may feel is a slight pressure in your throat and chest.
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