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Before Esophagectomy

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Feb 4, 2024.


An esophagectomy

is surgery to remove part or all of your esophagus. An esophagectomy is usually done to treat cancer of the esophagus. It can also be done if your esophagus does not work properly or has severe damage or trauma. You may need to stay in the hospital for up to 2 weeks after surgery.

Eating and drinking before surgery:

Do not to eat or drink anything after midnight on the day of your surgery.

Quit smoking:

Nicotine can damage blood vessels and make it more difficult to heal from an esophagectomy. Smoking also increases your risk for cancer to return after treatment. Your healthcare provider may instruct you to quit at least 1 month before surgery. You will need to remain a nonsmoker after surgery to prevent damage to your esophagus. Do not use e-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco in place of cigarettes or to help you quit. They still contain nicotine. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit.

Driving restrictions:

Arrange for someone to drive you home from the hospital. You will not be allowed to drive yourself home. You may not be allowed to drive for up to 3 weeks after you leave the hospital. You will need to stop taking prescription pain medicine before you can start driving again. Arrange to have someone drive you during the weeks when you will not be allowed to drive.

Take time off from work:

You may not be able to return to work for several weeks after an esophagectomy. Ask your healthcare provider when you can return to work.


Your surgeon may instruct you to stop taking medicines such as blood thinners 10 to 14 days before surgery. Ask your surgeon which medicines you can take the day of surgery. You may be told to take medicines such as blood pressure or diabetic medicines with a sip of water. If you have diabetes, your provider may change your dose of insulin on the day of surgery.


Before surgery, prepare for nutrition changes you may need to make:

Risks of an esophagectomy:

You may bleed more than expected or develop an infection. Fluid may leak into your chest or abdomen. Your vocal cords may become paralyzed. You may have difficulty swallowing. Food may move too quickly or slowly into your intestines. You may feel full quickly or vomit when you eat. Reflux is also a risk. Reflux is when fluid backs up from your stomach into your esophagus.

Follow up with your surgeon or doctor as directed:

After your surgery you will need to keep all appointments. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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