Esophageal Obstruction

What is Esophageal Obstruction?

Esophageal obstruction, also known as ‘steakhouse syndrome’, is a type of medical emergency caused due to the obstruction of esophagus by ingested foreign body like pork, meat, etc. In medical terms, it is a condition which causes narrowing or blocking of the esophagus. The patient thus feels problem in swallowing food. Esophagus is a muscular tube extending from the pharynx to the stomach. In an adult, it is 11-13 inches long, i.e. 28-33 cm long with an internal diameter of 2 cm.

The mucosal layer is moist to allow food to pass to the stomach. The major function of the esophagus is to pass liquids or chunks of food (referred as bolus) through the oral cavity to the stomach.


Patients with esophageal Obstruction complain about difficulty in swallowing food. If a patient feels difficulty in swallowing both liquids and solids, it is defined as a motility condition. On the other hand, if difficulty was initially with swallowing solids, and then started to occur also when having liquid; it is called mechanical obstruction. Some typical symptoms of the disease include:

  • Dysphagia.
  • Pain while swallowing.
  • Weight loss.
  • Regurgitation/reflux of food or liquids.
  • Pain In upper chest.
  • Hiccups.
  • Choking.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Fever.


Esophageal blockage may be a result of many factors. The most common causes of blockage are as given below:

  • Abnormal or deformed Esophagus: A few common abnormalities which include:
    esophageal atresia, esophageal webs (a condition in which an extra tissue crosses through esophagus), and, schatzki’s ring (a condition that arises due to formation of a ring of thick muscles around the esophagus)
  • An Injury due to some medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen.
  • While swallowing lye products, and/or during endoscopy.
  • Prolonged exposure or use of a nasogastric or stomach tube.
  • Diseases such as esophageal cancer and certain other ailments caused by virus, bacteria can cause narrowing of the esophagus.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux.
  • Excessive vomiting due to anorexia.



The main risk factors are:

  • Smoking. 
  • Obesity.
  • Alcohol consumption.
  • Having bile reflux.
  • Having gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).



To prevent the occurrence of this disease, one should take care of:

  • Avoid smoking.
  • Take a healthy diet.
  • Limit the consumption of alcohol.

How is it diagnosed?

At Medanta, our doctors shall look into esophagus with a flexible tube, and would  diagnose the condition by means of:


How is it treated?

At Medanta, our experts may employ several methods to treat the disease:


  • Dilation

    The most popular treatment for esophageal obstruction is Dilation.
    If GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux diseases) is the reason for esophageal stricture, PPI is used to prevent the recurrence of the disease.

  • Endoscopy

    It is done through mouth and can be used to stretch the narrowed esophageal.
    However, in major cases treatment depends on the cause and condition of esophagus. Consultations with speech therapist and registered dieticians are also recommended.
    Apart from Endoscopy which involves inserting a tube to push the obstructing food into the stomach, Roth net mesh is used which is inserted through an endoscope.

When do I contact the doctor?

You should immediately contact a doctor, if you experience symptoms like weight loss, hiccups, shortness of breath, fever and choking. After the treatment of the disease, you shall be put to absolute health. 

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