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Esophageal Dilation


What you need to know about esophageal dilation:

Esophageal dilation is a procedure to widen a narrow part of your esophagus. Your healthcare provider will use a dilator (inflatable balloon or another tool that expands) to make the area wider. He or she may also do an endoscopy before or during your esophageal dilation. During an endoscopy, your healthcare provider will use a scope to see inside your esophagus.

How to prepare for esophageal dilation:

  • Your healthcare provider will tell you how to prepare for this procedure. Tell your provider about all medicines you currently take. He or she will tell you if you need to stop taking any medicine before the procedure, and when to stop. He or she will tell you which medicines to take or not take on the day of the procedure.
  • Arrange to have someone drive you home after the procedure. If you are having general anesthesia, the person needs to stay with you for 24 hours.
  • You may need blood or urine tests before your procedure. You may also need to have a barium swallow, x-ray, CT scan, or MRI of your esophagus.
  • Tell your provider about any allergies you have. Tell him or her if you had an allergic reaction to anesthesia.

What will happen during esophageal dilation:

  • General anesthesia may be given to keep you asleep and free from pain during your procedure. You may instead be given local anesthesia. This is sprayed into your mouth to numb the area and dull the pain. You may still feel pressure or pushing during the procedure.
  • Your healthcare provider will put a scope or dilator into your mouth and guide it down to your esophagus. A sample of tissue may be taken to be tested.
  • Your healthcare provider will use a dilator to stretch the narrow part of your esophagus. He or she may repeat this step 1 or 2 times with larger dilators. He or she may place a stent or inject steroid medicine into the area to help prevent it from narrowing again.

What to expect after esophageal dilation:

You will be taken to a room to rest until you are fully awake. You may have a sore throat for a few hours after the procedure. Your healthcare provider will tell you if you need to have dilation again. He or she will tell you how to get the results of any tests done during the procedure.

Risks of esophageal dilation:

During the procedure, saliva or stomach fluid may get into your lungs and cause pneumonia. Your esophagus may be damaged and cause bleeding or an infection. You may need another surgery to repair the damage. Even with treatment, your esophagus may become narrow again.

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • You vomit blood.
  • You have a fast heartbeat, chest pain, or sudden trouble breathing.
  • Your abdomen suddenly becomes tender and hard.

Call your doctor if:

  • You are not able to swallow any food.
  • You have a fever.
  • You feel very full or bloated.
  • You have nausea or are vomiting.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


  • Medicines may be given to decrease stomach acid that can irritate your esophagus.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.


Your healthcare provider will tell you how long to wait after the procedure before you eat or drink anything. You may need to wait until any numbness in your throat is gone. When it is okay to eat, chew your food well. Eat soft foods if you still have problems swallowing. Soft foods include applesauce, bananas, cooked cereal, cottage cheese, eggs, pudding, and yogurt.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

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.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.