Skip to main content

Food Impaction

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jul 4, 2022.

What is food impaction?

Food impaction occurs when food (often meat or fish bones) becomes stuck in your esophagus. Food impaction can occur if your esophagus does not function normally. Food impaction may also happen if you do not have teeth or do not chew your food completely.

How is food impaction diagnosed and treated?

Your healthcare provider will ask what your symptoms are, when they began, and what you recently ate. You may need an x-ray to help locate the food in your esophagus. You may need the following treatments:

  • Medicines may be given to relax your esophagus. This may help food pass into your stomach.
  • Endoscopy is a procedure in which a scope (thin, flexible tube with a light) is used to examine your upper gastrointestinal tract. Devices, such as forceps, are used during endoscopy to pull out the food. Your healthcare provider may gently push the food through your esophagus and into your stomach. He may send tissue from your esophagus to the lab for tests.

How can I prevent another episode of food impaction?

  • Sit up while you eat. Raise the head of your bed if you need to eat in bed.
  • Make sure your dentures fit well. Poorly fitting dentures make it difficult to chew.
  • Chew your food completely. Proper chewing will help with swallowing.
  • Drink water with meals. Water will help move food down to your stomach.
  • Follow up with your healthcare provider. You may need tests to check your ability to swallow.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You are unable to swallow your saliva.
  • Your breathing is noisy.
  • You have trouble breathing.
  • You have repeated vomiting or blood in your vomit.
  • You have pain in your chest or abdomen.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You feel you have something stuck in your throat.
  • You choke or vomit after eating.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

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.