Skip to main content


Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jul 4, 2022.

What do I need to know about an esophagectomy?

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.

How do I prepare for an esophagectomy?

Your healthcare provider will talk to you about how to prepare for surgery. He will tell you not to eat or drink anything after midnight on the day of your surgery. He will tell you what medicines to take or not take on the day of your surgery.

What will happen during an esophagectomy?

  • You will be given general anesthesia to keep you asleep and pain-free during your surgery. Surgery may be done through small incisions and a tool called a laparoscope. You may have open surgery instead of laparoscopic surgery. Open surgery means removing and replacing your esophagus through large incisions.
  • The diseased part of your esophagus will be removed. It will then be replaced by your stomach or part of your large intestines. Your healthcare provider may also remove lymph nodes. During surgery, your healthcare provider will insert a feeding tube into your small intestine. He will also place a nasogastric or gastric tube to help the stitches heal.

What will happen after an esophagectomy?

You may need to stay in the hospital for up to 2 weeks after surgery.

  • You may have chest tubes in place. You may also have a gastric tube coming from your abdomen. Both tubes will be attached to suction and will help with healing. You may have smaller drains to prevent swelling around your incision.
  • You will not be able to eat or drink for a period of time after surgery. You will be fed through your feeding tube until you are able to eat and drink. You will be sent home with your feeding tube in place. Ask your healthcare provider for information about your feeding tube.

What are the 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.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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.

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2022 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

Further information

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