Sclerotherapy

The esophagus is the muscular tube that connects your mouth with your stomach. In patients with liver disease, the veins in the esophagus may become enlarged (distended) and may rupture and bleed.

Sclerotherapy involves injecting these distended veins with a medication that produces a “scar” or a thickening of the blood vessels. This thickening helps prevent blood from flowing through the veins, so that they no longer bleed.

Before the Procedure

You should not eat or drink anything after midnight the night before your sclerotherapy.

 

Your sclerotherapy will be performed in the Gastrointestinal (GL) Laboratory. A hospital escort will take you to the GI Lab. If you are having the procedure performed as a Same Day Services patient, your escort will meet you at the registration area. If you have been admitted to the hospital, your escort will come to your room to take you to the GI Lab.

During the Procedure

Your nurse will start an intravenous (IV) line in a vein in your arm. The IV will give you medications that will help you relax before and during the procedure.

 

You probably will be asked to lie on your left side. The back of your throat may be numbed with a spray. Your doctor will pass a flexible tube, called an endoscope, through your mouth and into your esophagus. The edoscope is small compared to your esophagus and will not interfere with your breathing. The endoscope has a light at the end of it that allows your doctor to examine your esophagus, stomach, and duodenum (the part of the small intestine closest to the stomach) to look for other possible causes of bleeding. Your doctor will pass a smaller tube through the endoscope. The smaller tube has a needle to inject the veins so they become scarred and thickened.

After the Procedure

Following sclerotherapy, you will not be allowed to eat or drink anything until your “gag reflex” has returned. Your nurse may test your gag reflex by stroking the back of your throat with a cotton swab. When this swabbing produces a gagging sensation, you may have liquids to drink. You probably will resume your normal diet the following day.

 

Your nurse will check your blood pressure, temperature, pulse, and respiration frequently during the first few hours after your sclerotherapy.

If you are an outpatient, you probably will be allowed to return home an hour or two after the procedure is complete.

It is common to have a sore throat after sclerotherapy. Some patients experience mild chest pain, painful swallowing, gas pains, and belching. These conditions usually clear up on their own. Occasionally, a patient bleeds or develops a fever after the procedure. Call your doctor and come to the Emergency Department if you cough up blood or if you develop a fever. Call your doctor if you have any questions or concerns related to your sclerotherapy.

Sclerotherapy usually requires several treatments. Your doctor will tell you how often it must be repeated.

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