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Find information on medical topics, symptoms, drugs, procedures, news and more, written for the health care professional.

* This is the Professional Version. *

Obstructive Disorders of the Esophagus

By Michael C. DiMarino, MD

(See page Benign Esophageal Tumors and see page Esophageal Cancer.)

Most esophageal obstruction develops slowly and is incomplete when patients first seek care, typically for difficulty swallowing solids. However, sometimes complete esophageal obstruction develops suddenly because of an impacted foreign body or food bolus (see page Foreign Bodies in the GI Tract : Esophageal foreign bodies).

Obstruction may have intrinsic or extrinsic causes.

Intrinsic obstruction may be caused by

  • Esophageal tumors (benign or malignant)

  • Lower esophageal rings (see page Lower Esophageal Ring)

  • Esophageal webs (see page Esophageal Web)

  • Strictures caused by gastroesophageal reflux or, rarely, caustic ingestion

Extrinsic obstruction may be caused by compression resulting from

  • An enlarged left atrium

  • An aortic aneurysm

  • An aberrant subclavian artery (termed dysphagia lusoria—see page Dysphagia Lusoria)

  • A substernal thyroid gland

  • Cervical bony exostosis

  • A thoracic tumor

For evaluation of potential esophageal obstruction, see page Dysphagia.

* This is the Professional Version. *