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There are a number of health complications, including severe GERD, that can cause blockage or narrowing of the esophagus, the tube that connects your mouth to your stomach. If the esophagus is blocked, swallowing, drinking and even breathing can become difficult. Esophageal dilation is used to widen the esophagus after a blockage or narrowing has occurred.
There are multiple techniques that can be used to perform esophageal dilation, depending on what has caused the narrowing or blockage of the esophagus.
- Simple dilators (Bougies) – A bougie is simply a flexible cylinder that is passed into the esophagus to help open it up. These simple dilators are available in varying thicknesses and more than one may be used during an esophageal dilation.
- Balloon dilators – Using an endoscope, a physician can insert a balloon into the esophagus and then inflate the balloon. As the balloon inflates, it will stretch and often break the blockage.
- Achalasia dilators – This type of esophageal dilation is typically done with the assistance of X-ray imaging. A large balloon dilator is used to stretch and break blockage in the lower part of the esophagus where food passes into the stomach.
Depending on what type of esophageal dilation is performed, the procedure may take anywhere from a few minutes to a half an hour. This is usually an outpatient procedure that can be done in a physician’s office or endoscopy suite. The amount of pain relievers or sedation used will vary depending on the technique.