Esophageal Strictures | Diagnosis & Treatment

How are esophageal strictures diagnosed?

Clinicians diagnose esophageal strictures by asking you or your child about their symptoms and taking a complete medical history. They may also recommend specific tests to check for narrowing of the esophagus, such as:

  • Esophagram (also called a 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, lighted tube with a camera is placed through your child's mouth into the esophagus to view the inside of the esophagus

How are esophageal strictures treated?

The first-line treatment for esophageal strictures is dilation (sometimes incorrectly called dilatation). 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 scar tissue causing the stricture in the esophagus. A small tube called a stent may also be inserted into the area of the stricture. The stent keeps the esophagus open as the tissue around it heals; it is removed later in a follow-up procedure. Occasionally we will place a sponge in the esophagus to help healing after dilation or incisional therapy.

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