Esophageal Dilation

Your doctor has requested an esophageal (eh-SOF-uh-JEE-al) dilation (dye-LAY-shun) for you. This procedure dilates, or stretches, the esophagus. The esophagus is the tube that connects your mouth to your stomach.

Dilation is usually performed when you have difficulty swallowing food. This difficulty may occur if your esophagus narrows or swells. Esophageal dilation is usually performed with an upper GI endoscopy, a procedure which uses a lighted scope to detect polyps or other defects in the lining of the esophagus and stomach (see the patient education sheet titled Upper GI Endoscopy for more information).

How do I prepare for the test?

These are general guidelines for this test. You will be given specific instructions by your doctor, nurse, or testing center.

Medications

Please check with your doctor or testing center for instructions if you are taking any of the following medications:

  • Aspirin
  • Coumadin
  • Nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs (Advil, Motrin, or arthritis medications)
  • Diabetes medication (insulin, Glucophage, or others)
  • Heart medications
  • Antacids

Dietary

  • Do not eat or drink anything after midnight the night before your test.

Please bring:

  • Your prescription
  • An insurance card and/or referral slip
  • A responsible adult to drive you home
  • A list of your medications and allergies

What will happen before the test?

  • You will sign a consent form for the test.
  • You will be asked to put on a hospital gown.
  • An intravenous (IV) line will be started in your arm.
  • You will be asked to remove your glasses, contact lenses, dentures, and jewelry.
  • The back of your throat will be numbed with a spray.

What will happen during the test?

You will be given medication to help you relax before the test. You will be awake but drowsy. You may be asked to swallow lubricated flexible tubes of increasing size. These tubes will be inserted into your throat one at a time. The test usually takes about 15 minutes.

Your doctor may use special balloons instead of tubes to dilate your esophagus. He or she will talk to you about which method is best for you.

What will happen after the test?

  • You will remain in the recovery area until you are awake and the medication has worn off.
  • Your nurse will check your “gag reflex” by touching the back of your throat with a cotton swab.
  • You will not be able to eat or drink until your gag reflex has returned.

How will I feel after the test?

You may have a mild sore throat and/or hoarseness or a cough. You may feel drowsy if you received an IV sedative.

What should I report to my doctor?

Call your doctor immediately if you have any of the following symptoms: 

  • Increasing chest, shoulder, or back pain
  • Temperature of 100°F or above
  • Persistent coughing up of blood
  • Persistent nausea or vomiting
  • New, persistent abdominal pain

When/How will I get my test results?

Your doctor will discuss the results of your test with you. Please talk with your doctor and/or testing center about how to get your test results.

Reviewed April 2011

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