Oesophageal dilatation

What is oesophageal dilatation?
Oesophageal dilatation is a procedure for stretching the oesophagus (gullet) in people with a narrowing that is causing difficulty swallowing. It is performed at the time of gastroscopy. A couple of techniques can be used including with a tapered ‘bougie’ or with a high pressure balloon.

Why is oesophageal dilatation performed?
Oesophageal dilatation is performed when there is a narrowing in the oesophagus that is causing difficulty with swallowing. It allows the narrowing to be stretched so that food can pass more easily. Narrowing may occur in the oesophagus as a result of chronic gastro-oeosphageal reflux, from congenital or developmental abnormalities, from inflammatory conditions such as eosinophilic oesophagitis or due to a malignant condition.

Are there any risks?
Oesophageal dilatation is generally safe but does carry a small risk of complications in addition to the risk of gastroscopy itself. The risks include bleeding, aspiration and perforation of the oesophagus. If bleeding occurs it usually settles without any treatment but may require observation in hospital. If a tear through the wall of the oesophagus occurs (perforation) then you will need to be observed in hospital and may need antibiotics. Sometimes surgery may be required to repair a tear in the oesophagus.

What happens after the procedure?
The recovery after oesophageal dilatation is similar to after gastroscopy itself. You may have a sore throat and some bloating due to retained gas immediately after the procedure. You will be observed in recovery for a few hours and will usually be able to start drinking 2-4 hours after the procedure. Depending on the type of dilatation your Gastroenterologist will tell you after the procedure when you can start eating normally. You may need additional reflux treatment for a few weeks after the procedure to promote healing after the dilatation. Sometimes repeated dilatation is required to achieve a durable response.

If you have unanswered questions about the procedure please phone your Gastroenterologist.  Further information is available from the Gastroenterological Society of Australia on their ‘consumer information’ page at www.gesa.org.au.