How are esophageal strictures treated following a caustic ingestion?

Updated: Dec 09, 2020
  • Author: Derrick Lung, MD, MPH, FACEP, FACMT; Chief Editor: David Vearrier, MD, MPH  more...
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Esophageal stricture can develop as early as 3 weeks after caustic ingestion, but typically occurs 8 weeks or longer afterwards. Strictures can be treated with esophageal dilatation, using bougies (usually Savary) or balloon catheters. Savary bougies are considered more reliable for treatment of consolidated and fibrotic strictures or long, tortuous ones, and bougie dilatation may pose lower risk of perforation, compared with rates as high as 30% reported with balloon dilatation of caustic strictures. [15]

However, in a study by Uygun et al, fluoroscopically guided esophageal balloon dilatation (EBD) was found to be a safe procedure, with a low rate of complications; and it had a 100% success rate. In their review of of 369 EBD sessions in 38 children (aged 14 months to 14 years, median 3.5 years) with caustic esophageal strictures, six (1.6%) esophageal perforations occurred in five patients (13.2%). [20]

Ugyun et al recommend that in children, dilatation should be performed gently with balloons of gradually increasing appropriate diameters over consecutive sessions. In addition, the study findings showed that EBD treatment was significantly faster and shorter in patients who began EBD earlier (mean, 15 days) after caustic ingestion than in those who began it later (mean, 34 days). [20]

When esophageal dilatation is not possible or fails to provide an adequate esophageal caliber in the long-term, esophageal replacement by retrosternal stomach or, preferably, right colonic interposition should be considered. Arguments can be made for either bypass or resection of the native esophagus. [15]

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