Esophageal Stricture

Non-cancerous stricture is an area of narrowing caused by scarring in the esophagus, the tube-shaped muscle that connects the mouth to the stomach. Narrowing can range from mild to complete blockage.

The most common blockage is narrowing caused by locally growing and invading esophageal cancer. However, if you have esophageal stricture, it does not necessarily mean you have esophageal cancer.

Causes

Most commonly, scarring results from gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) and repeated chemical burns to the mucous membrane of the esophagus. Occasionally, severe injury to the esophagus, such as drinking strong chemicals, results in scarring and a stricture.

Symptoms

  • Food getting “stuck”
  • Choking
  • Symptoms that overlap with GERD

Diagnosing Esophageal Stricture

  • Upper GI (gastrointestinal) series, also called a barium swallow: This test looks at the organs of the top part of the digestive system. After you swallow a metallic fluid called barium, which coats the organs so they can be seen on an X-ray, a provider checks the food pipe (esophagus), stomach and first part of the small intestine (duodenum).
  • Upper endoscopy or EGD (esophagogastroduodenoscopy): This test looks at the lining or inside of the esophagus, stomach and duodenum. The test is performed with an endoscope, a thin, lighted tube with a camera on the end. The endoscope is inserted into the mouth and throat. Then it goes into the esophagus, stomach and duodenum. Your provider can see inside these organs and take a small tissue sample (biopsy) to determine the cause (scarring versus cancer).

Treatment

Strictures are usually treated with dilation. This is typically done in conjunction with upper endoscopy or EGD. If strictures worsen, return or involve the majority of the esophagus, the best option may be surgical removal and replacement with stomach or colon.