Esophageal Balloon Dilation

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Foreign objects, such as toys and rawhides, that become wedged in the esophagus, and certain medications that remain in the esophagus (not completely swallowed), such as the antibiotic doxycycline (tablets) in cats, can lead to a narrowing (stricture) of the esophagus.

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Pictured: A stricture (resulting in the small opening) in the esophagus of a dog

A stricture occurs when the lining (mucosa) of the esophagus becomes so significantly irritated (ulcerated) that the esophagus scars.

Patients with esophageal strictures cannot swallow food, and sometimes even have difficulty swallowing water.

Esophageal strictures in dogs and cats can be treated with balloon dilation.

During an esophageal balloon dilation procedure, the endoscope is gently inserted through the mouth and into the esophagus until the stricture is located. A balloon dilator is then advanced through the endoscope and into the middle of the stricture. The balloon device is inflated by injecting sterile saline. The inflated balloon exerts a large amount of pressure outward thereby stretching (dilating) the narrowed area of the esophagus.

This short video clip shows the first dilation of an esophageal stricture in a puppy

To correct an esophageal stricture, multiple ballooning procedures may be needed (typically 1-2 weeks apart). Each procedure stretches and dilates the stricture a small amount. The esophagus must be dilated in stages because excessive stretching at any one time could lead to tearing and perforation of the esophagus.

Although less commonly than the esophagus, other organs can develop strictures and require a ballooning procedure. Examples of these organs include the rectum and the colon.