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Esophageal stricture - benign

Definition

Benign esophageal stricture is a narrowing of the esophagus (the tube from the mouth to the stomach) that causes swallowing difficulties.

Benign means that it is not caused by cancer of esophagus.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Esophageal stricture can be caused by:

  • Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD)
  • Injuries caused by an endoscope
  • Long-term use of a nasogastric (NG) tube (tube through the nose into the stomach)
  • Swallowing substances that harm the lining of the esophagus, such as household cleaners, lye, disc batteries, or battery acid
  • Treatment of esophageal varices

Symptoms

Signs and tests

Treatment

Dilation (stretching) of the esophagus is the preferred treatment. You may need to have this treatment repeated after a period of time to prevent the stricture from narrowing again.

Proton pump inhibitors (acid-blocking medicines) can keep a peptic stricture from returning. Surgical treatment is rarely needed.

Expectations (prognosis)

The stricture recur in the future. This would require a repeat dilation.

Complications

Swallowing difficulties may keep you from getting enough fluids and nutrients. Solid food, especially meat, can get stuck above the stricture and endoscopy would be needed to remove it.

There is also an increased risk (with regurgitation) of having food, fluid, or vomit enter the lungs and cause choking or aspiration pneumonia.

Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider if swallowing problems do not go away.

Prevention

Use safety measures to avoid swallowing corrosive substances. Keep dangerous products out of the reach of children. See your doctor if you have GERD.

References

Ginsberg GG, Pfau PR. Foreign bodies, bezoards, and caustic ingestions. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2010:chap 25.


Review Date: 10/8/2012
Reviewed By: George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, California. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, and Stephanie Slon. 10/08/12
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