Who performs an esophagoscopy?

The following specialists commonly perform esophagoscopy:

  • Gastroenterologists are internists who specialize in diseases of the digestive system.
  • Pediatric gastroenterologists specialized in diagnosing and treating digestive system and nutritional problems in children.

Other specialists who perform esophagoscopies include:

  • General surgeons and pediatric surgeons specialize in the surgical treatment of a wide variety of diseases, disorders and conditions.
  • Otolaryngologists and pediatric otolaryngologists specialize in treating conditions of the ears, nose and throat. They are also called ENTs.

How is an esophagoscopy performed?

The technique used to perform your esophagoscopy will vary depending on the specific procedure, your symptoms or diagnosis, and other factors. General steps are provided for specific procedures.

Flexible esophagoscopy

Flexible esophagoscopy is often performed in a doctor’s office, outpatient surgical center, or a procedure room in a hospital. It generally takes half an hour or less and includes these steps:

  1. You dress in a patient gown. Your care team positions you on an examination table. Your care team will give you blankets for modesty and warmth as needed.
  2. Your doctor or care team sprays a topical anesthetic into the back of your throat to numb it and reduce the gag reflex. Your doctor also gives you a light sedative to make you drowsy and relaxed, and possibly a pain medication. Medication may be given intravenously (through an IV). In some cases, deeper sedation or anesthesia may be used in which you are more relaxed and unaware of the procedure. You may not even remember it. Your care team monitors your vital signs during IV sedation.
  3. Your doctor has you wear a special mouth guard to protect your teeth during the procedure.
  4. Your doctor inserts a thin, flexible endoscope through your mouth or nose, through the throat, and into the esophagus. The doctor takes pictures and the images are transmitted onto a video screen. You may be asked to swallow at certain times to help guide the endoscope into the esophagus.
  5. Your doctor pulls the endoscope out of the esophagus. This is when the most careful examination is carried out and procedures, such as tissue biopsy and treatments, are generally performed.

Rigid esophagoscopy

Rigid esophagoscopy is generally performed in a hospital. This procedure is often done under general anesthesia and takes about one hour. The day of your procedure, you can generally expect to:

  1. Talk with a preoperative nurse. The nurse will perform an exam and ensure that all needed tests are in order and that you understand and sign the surgical consent form.
  2. Remove all clothing and jewelry and dress in a hospital gown. It is a good idea to leave all jewelry and valuables at home or with a family if possible. Your care team will give you blankets for modesty and to keep you warm.
  3. Talk with the anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist about your medical history and the type of anesthesia you will have.
  4. Your care team starts an IV and gives you a combination of IV drugs and inhaled gases. You will not feel or remember the procedure as the rigid endoscope is passed into the esophagus.
  5. Your care team monitors your vital signs and other critical body functions. This occurs throughout the procedure and your recovery until you are alert, breathing effectively, and your vital signs are stable.

Will I feel pain?

Your comfort and relaxation is very important to both you and your care team. You may feel pressure in your throat and you will not be able to talk during the procedure. Your care team will give you pain and sedative medications to keep you calm and comfortable. In fact, patients often fall asleep during the procedure. You will not feel or remember the procedure if you have general anesthesia.

What are the risks and potential complications of an esophagoscopy?

Complications after an esophagoscopy are not common. However, any procedure involves risks and the possibility of complications that may become serious in some cases. Complications can develop during the procedure or recovery. Risks and potential complications of an esophagoscopy include: