Oesophageal dilation is the technique used to stretch or open the blocked portion of the oesophagus. When the oesophagus becomes narrowed or blocked, swallowing food or liquid may be difficult. In such cases, Dr Mbao may advise oesophageal dilation.

Why might oesophageal dilation be necessary?

The oesophagus may become narrowed or blocked due to conditions such as GERD, achalasia, Jackhammer oesophagus, oesophageal cancer, eosinophilic oesophagitis and Schatzki's ring or due to injury from chemicals, radiation therapy or previous oesophageal surgery. Oesophageal dilation may be necessary when the oesophagus becomes narrowed or blocked causing inability to swallow food or liquids.

What does the procedure involve?

Oesophageal dilation is a non-surgical procedure done on an outpatient basis. Prior to the procedure, you will be instructed to refrain from eating for 8 hours.

While you are conscious for the procedure, Dr Mbao may administer a sedative to relax you. You should only experience mild discomfort for 30 - 40 minutes. You will be given an anaesthetic throat spray to numb your throat for the procedure. There are many dilating techniques, but the chosen technique will be discussed with you prior to the procedure. The various techniques include:

  • Simple dilators (Bougies) – these flexible dilators are passed down the oesophagus, one at a time to dilate or open the oesophagus.
  • Guided Wire Bougie – in some cases Dr Mbao will need to locate the narrowed or blocked area. To do this a fluoroscopy is used. With a thin wire passed down the oesophagus, the narrowed will be highlighted on an x-ray. Next, a dilator with a hole through it is guided down the oesophagus and across the stricture.
  • Balloon dilators – after inserting a thin tube down the oesophagus and past the narrowed area, a deflated balloon is then threaded into the oesophagus and inflated to enlarge the narrowed area and break the stricture.

A simple bougie dilatation may take only a few minutes and can be done in the rooms while other techniques may require sedation in theatre with the necessary equipment available. Afterwards, recovery is relatively quick. A mild sore throat, chest pain, or pain with swallowing is to be expected. You will be advised to follow a soft diet for the first 24 hours after the dilation.