Esophageal Injury and Trauma | Diagnosis & Treatment

How is esophageal injury diagnosed?

If a physician suspects that your child may have an esophageal injury, they will ask detailed questions, including whether your child may have ingested any caustic substances or foreign objects, and what, if any, symptoms are present.

Depending on your answers, the physician may order certain tests to get a better understanding of any possible damage. These tests may include:

  • esophagram (or barium swallow), in which your child drinks a special contrast liquid that shows up on x-ray and allows the radiologist to see parts of the body clearly
  • endoscopy, in which a thin and lighted tube is placed through your child's nose or mouth into the esophagus to view inside it
  • chest x-ray to evaluate any respiratory (breathing) problems can help identify complications such as esophageal perforation
  • computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to further evaluate possible damage

How is esophageal injury treated?

The treatment for esophageal injury depends on the type and extent of damage. If your child has developed esophageal strictures, the physician will likely recommend dilation (also called dilation). In this procedure, your child's physician will guide an endoscope - a long, thin, flexible tube equipped with lights and a tiny camera - into your child's mouth and esophagus. The doctor will then guide a tiny balloon through the endoscope and into the stricture, inflating it just enough to stretch the abnormal tissue in the esophagus.

A small tube called a stent or a sponge may also be inserted into the area of the stricture. The stent or sponge keeps the esophagus open as the tissue around it heals; it is removed later in a follow-up procedure.

In cases where dilation is not effective, your child's doctor may recommend surgery.