What is esophageal dilation?
Esophageal dilation is a procedure that can open up narrow areas of the esophagus. The esophagus is the tube that carries food to your stomach. When this tube is too narrow, it is hard for food and liquids to pass through. This makes it hard to swallow.
During the procedure, the doctor guides a balloon or plastic dilator down your throat and into your esophagus. Then the device expands, like a balloon filling with air. It widens any narrow parts of your esophagus. To guide the balloon or plastic dilator, the doctor may use a thin, lighted tube that bends. (It is called an endoscope, or a scope.) Or he or she may use a thin wire as a guide.
You may get medicine to numb the back of your throat and help you relax during the procedure. You will not feel pain. You may go home after your doctor or nurse checks to make sure that you are not having any problems.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems.
What happens before the procedure?
Procedures can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for your procedure.
Preparing for the procedure
- Understand exactly what procedure is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
- Tell your doctor ALL the medicines, vitamins, supplements, and herbal remedies you take. Some of these can increase the risk of bleeding or interact with anesthesia.
- If you take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she will tell you if you should stop taking these medicines before your procedure. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
- Your doctor will tell you which medicines to take or stop before your procedure. You may need to stop taking certain medicines a week or more before the procedure. So talk to your doctor as soon as you can.
What happens on the day of the procedure?
- Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don’t, your procedure may be canceled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of the procedure, take them with only a sip of water.
- Take a bath or shower before you come in for your procedure. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
- Take off all jewelry and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.
At the hospital or surgery center
- The procedure will take about 15 to 30 minutes.
- The doctor may spray medicine on the back of your throat to numb it. You also will get medicine to prevent pain and to relax you.
- You will stay at the hospital or surgery center for 1 to 2 hours until the medicine you were given wears off.
- Be sure you have someone to drive you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine make it unsafe for you to drive.
- You will be given more specific instructions about recovering from your procedure. They will cover things like diet, wound care, follow-up care, driving, and getting back to your normal routine.
When should you call your doctor?
- You have questions or concerns.
- You don’t understand how to prepare for your procedure.
- You become ill before the procedure (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
- You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the procedure.