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Dysphagia (Swallowing Problems) (cont.)

Dysphagia Surgery

Some anatomical and functional abnormalities of the pharynx or esophagus that cause dysphagia can be treated successfully by surgery. Surgery also is a component of treatment for dysphagia associated with esophageal cancer and compression of the esophagus due to other tumors or abnormalities in the chest.

Surgical treatments for dysphagia are varied. The choice of procedure depends upon the cause of dysphagia.

  • Dilation of the lower esophageal sphincter in achalasia is done by having the patient swallow a tube with a balloon on the end that is positioned across the lower esophageal sphincter with the help of X-ray, and the balloon is blown up suddenly. The goal is to stretch - actually to tear - the sphincter. This also can be useful in the treatment of strictures and Schatzki rings as well as other anatomical conditions associated with dysphagia.
  • The lower esophageal sphincter also can be cut surgically in a procedure called esophagomyotomy. The surgery can be done using a large abdominal incision or laparoscopically through small punctures in the abdomen or chest.
  • Other surgical procedures depend upon the exact location and extent of the anatomical abnormality that is causing the dysphagia.

Surgical procedures also may be necessary to increase a patient's nutritional status in cases of severe dysphagia. A nasogastric (NG) tube is used for feeding when the condition is not expected to be a long-term problem. For chronic cases of severe dysphagia, a percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) tube can be inserted surgically directly through the skin into the stomach in order to deliver food directly into the stomach.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/8/2014

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