An esophagoscopy is a diagnostic procedure used to check for physical abnormalities in the esophagus, the structure in the throat that carries food to the stomach. A specialist performs the procedure by inserting a lighted tube called an esophagoscope into the throat that produces magnified images of the tissue lining. Patients who have chronic swallowing difficulties, throat trauma, acid reflux, or suspected esophageal cancer may be candidates for esophagoscopy. The procedure can usually be performed in a matter of minutes in a doctor's office or outpatient clinic.
Doctors commonly arrange for esophagoscopies after physical exams and other non-invasive tests suggest that there may be physical problems in the throat. Before the procedure, a patient is usually instructed to avoid food and liquids for several hours to ensure the stomach is empty. An oral medication may be given to dry out the mouth and throat.
The esophagoscope may be inserted through the mouth or through a nostril. The oral route typically requires administering a local anesthetic as well as a sedative to alleviate pain and reduce the chances of choking or vomiting. When esophagoscopy is performed through the nose, a small dose of local anesthetic is usually sufficient to prevent such complications.
Once the esophagoscope is in place, the doctor peers through the end to view throat tissues. He or she might be looking for signs of infection, acid erosion damage, or ruptures caused by food becoming lodged in the esophagus. Benign or malignant tumors may also be discovered during esophagoscopy. If a suspicious tumor is found, a tissue scraping can be collected with the esophagoscope so it can later be analyzed in a hospital laboratory.
Following the procedure, the esophagoscope is removed and the patient is monitored as he or she recovers from the anesthesia. There are slight risks of complications involved with esophagoscopy, including bleeding, accidental tears, and infections. Patients can usually go home on the same day as their exams as long as complications do not arise.
Results are usually made available a few days after the procedure. After explaining any problems that were discovered, the doctor can suggest different treatment options. Depending on the specific abnormality, a patient may need to take medications, maintain a specialized diet, or undergo surgery. One or more additional esophagoscopy examinations may be needed after a person completes a treatment plan to make sure it was successful.