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Esophageal Dilation: Before Your Procedure

What is esophageal dilation?

Esophageal dilation is a procedure that can open up narrow areas of the esophagus. The esophagus is the tube that carries food to your stomach. When this tube is too narrow, it is hard for food and liquids to pass through. This makes it hard to swallow.

During the procedure, the doctor guides a balloon or plastic dilator down your throat and into your esophagus. Then the device expands, like a balloon filling with air. It widens any narrow parts of your esophagus. To guide the balloon or plastic dilator, the doctor may use a thin, lighted tube that bends. (It is called an endoscope, or a scope.) Or they may use a thin wire as a guide.

You may get medicine to numb the back of your throat and help you relax during the procedure. Children who have this procedure will often get medicine to make them sleep (general anesthesia). You may go home after your healthcare team checks to make sure that you are not having any problems.

How do you prepare for the procedure?

Procedures can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for your procedure.

Preparing for the procedure

  • You will need to stop eating and drinking before the procedure. Your doctor will give you instructions.
  • Be sure you have someone to take you home. Medicines you get during the procedure will make it unsafe for you to drive or get home on your own.
  • Talk to your doctor about what procedure is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • If you take aspirin or some other blood thinner, ask your doctor if you should stop taking it before your procedure. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do. These medicines increase the risk of bleeding.
  • Tell your doctor ALL the medicines and natural health products you take. Some may increase the risk of problems during your procedure. Your doctor will tell you if you should stop taking any of them before the procedure and how soon to do it.
  • Make sure your doctor and the hospital have a copy of your advance care plan. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets others know your health care wishes. It's a good thing to have before any type of surgery or procedure.

What happens on the day of the procedure?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your surgery may be cancelled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of surgery, take them with only a sip of water.
  • Take a bath or shower before you come in for your procedure. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
  • Take off all jewellery and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.

At the hospital

  • Bring a picture ID and your Alberta Personal Health card.
  • The doctor may spray medicine on the back of your throat to numb it. You also will get medicine to reduce pain and to relax you. Children may have general anesthetic.
  • The procedure will take about 15 to 30 minutes.
  • You will stay at the hospital for a few hours until the medicine you were given wears off.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare for your procedure.
  • You become ill before the procedure (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the procedure.

Where can you learn more?

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