Catherine Spader, RN

What is an esophagoscopy?

An esophagoscopy is a procedure that allows your doctor to examine the inside of your esophagus using a long thin instrument called an endoscope. The endoscope contains a light and a camera that transmits pictures of the inside of your esophagus to a video screen. Esophagoscopy can help diagnose and treat diseases and disorders of the esophagus, such as esophageal cancer, Barrett’s esophagus, and objects stuck in the esophagus.

The esophagus is a muscular tube located in the upper gastrointestinal tract that connects your mouth to your stomach. An esophagoscopy can help your doctor diagnose unexplained symptoms you may be having, such as difficulty swallowing, upper abdominal pain, vomiting blood, or regurgitation. An esophagoscopy can also show certain structures of the throat and larynx (voice box).

Esophagoscopy is a minimally invasive procedure that can often be performed in an outpatient setting. The procedure does not require an incision and generally has a quick recovery and a very low risk of complications.

Esophagoscopy is only one method used to treat and diagnose conditions of the esophagus. Ask your doctor or healthcare provider about all of your options to understand which option is best for you.

Types of esophagoscopy

The types of esophagoscopy include:

  • Flexible esophagoscopy is performed by inserting a thin, flexible endoscope through the mouth and down the throat into the esophagus.

  • Transnasal flexible esophagoscopy is performed by inserting a thin, flexible endoscope through the nose and down the throat into esophagus.

  • Rigid esophagoscopy is performed by inserting a rigid endoscope through the mouth and down the throat into the esophagus.

Other procedures that may be performed

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Your doctor may recommend one or more additional procedures during your esophagoscopy to diagnose or treat certain conditions. The following procedures may be performed during the esophagoscopy procedure:

  • Botulinum toxin injection into the lower esophageal sphincter to relieve difficulty swallowing due to hypertensive lower esophageal sphincter

  • Chromoendoscopy, which involves spraying dye into the esophagus to highlight abnormal tissue

  • Dilation of the esophagus that is too narrow, often due to scar tissue

  • Endoscopic injection therapy, which is the application of medication that shrinks esophageal varices (enlarged veins in the esophagus that can bleed)

  • Endoscopic mucosal resection (EMR), which is the removal of abnormal lesions through an endoscope in early stage esophageal cancer or Barrett's esophagus

  • Fluorescence spectroscopy to identify esophagus tissue that may be cancerous

  • Foreign body removal, or removal of food or other object that is stuck in the esophagus

  • Photodynamic therapy for treatment of esophageal cancer with a laser directed through an endoscope

  • Radiofrequency ablation (RFA), which involves the use of heat to destroy abnormal cells from Barrett’s esophagus

  • Tissue biopsy, which involves removing samples of abnormal-looking intestinal tissues to be examined for disease or cancer

  • Variceal ligation for treatment of esophageal varices by tying them off with elastic bands

Why is an esophagoscopy performed?

Your doctor may recommend an esophagoscopy to diagnose and possibly treat a variety of diseases and conditions of the esophagus, and sometimes the throat and larynx (voice box). These include:

  • Acid reflux, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), hiatal hernia, laryngopharyngeal reflux, or heartburn

  • Barrett’s esophagus, which is damage to the esophagus caused by stomach acid

  • Cancer, tumor, or mass of neck, throat, airway, or esophagus

  • Chronic cough or hoarseness due to such conditions as acid reflux or GERD

  • Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), painful swallowing (odynophagia) and esophageal motility disorders, such as hypertensive lower esophageal sphincter, or difficulty feeding and regurgitation in infants

  • Esophageal varices, which are swollen veins in the esophagus that can bleed

  • Foreign body evaluation and removal

  • Globus sensation, which is a feeling of a lump in the throat

  • Narrowing or compression of the esophagus due to such conditions as scar tissue or a muscle disorder

  • Trauma to the esophagus, such as a tear or injury from violent and repeated coughing or vomiting

  • Vomiting blood from such conditions as a bleeding ulcer in the upper gastrointestinal tract or veins in the esophagus

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: