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Overview of Esophageal Injuries


Kristle Lee Lynch

, MD, Perelman School of Medicine at The University of Pennsylvania

Last full review/revision Oct 2020| Content last modified Oct 2020

The esophagus Throat and Esophagus The throat (pharynx—see also Throat) lies behind and below the mouth. When food and fluids leave the mouth, they pass through the throat. Swallowing of food and fluids begins voluntarily and... read more (the hollow tube that leads from the throat to the stomach) is rather difficult to injure but it can be injured gradually by backflow of acid from the stomach (gastroesophageal reflux Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) In gastroesophageal reflux disease, stomach contents, including acid and bile, flow backward from the stomach into the esophagus, causing inflammation in the esophagus and pain in the bottom... read more Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) or GERD). The esophagus may also be injured suddenly by swallowing caustic or acidic chemicals Caustic Substances Poisoning When swallowed, caustic substances can burn all tissues they touch—from the lips to the stomach. Symptoms may include pain (particularly with swallowing), coughing, shortness of breath, and... read more , irritating drugs, or sharp objects, or by extreme pressure. Extreme pressure can occur during violent vomiting, and violent vomiting can cause tears in the esophagus Esophageal Laceration (Mallory-Weiss Syndrome) An esophageal laceration (Mallory-Weiss syndrome) is a tear that does not penetrate the wall of the esophagus. The tear can be caused by forceful vomiting. Symptoms include blood in vomit. The... read more Esophageal Laceration (Mallory-Weiss Syndrome) . A very serious injury is rupture of the esophagus Esophageal Ruptures Esophageal ruptures are tears that penetrate the wall of the esophagus. Ruptures can be caused by surgical procedures, severe vomiting, or swallowing a large piece of food that becomes stuck... read more . This injury is rare and can be caused by surgical procedures or by vomiting or swallowing a large mass of food.

Symptoms of Esophageal Injuries

Sudden injuries of the esophagus usually cause pain, often felt as sharp pain under the breastbone. They may also cause bleeding, and blood may appear in vomit or stool. Fainting may occur due to this pain, especially if the esophagus ruptures. This rupture allows food contents to spill into the mediastinum (the area of the chest bordered by the sternum in front, the spinal column in back, the entrance to the chest cavity above, and the diaphragm below) and causes mediastinitis Mediastinitis Mediastinitis is inflammation of the mediastinum (the chest cavity, which contains the heart, the thymus gland, some lymph nodes, and parts of the esophagus, aorta, thyroid, and parathyroid... read more .

Diagnosis and Treatment of Esophageal Injuries

  • Depends on the injury

Treatment of injuries to the esophagus depends on the cause of the injury.

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Eosinophilic Esophagitis
Eosinophilic esophagitis is an inflammatory disorder in which the wall of the esophagus, the tube leading from the throat to the stomach, becomes filled with a type of white blood cells called eosinophils. Which of the following is believed to be the cause of this disorder?
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