The oesophagus is a long tube through which food travels from the mouth to the stomach. Narrowing or blockage of the tube can create problems with swallowing. Balloon dilation of the oesophagus is the process of widening a narrowed oesophagus by inserting a long thin tube (catheter) attached with a balloon into your throat, and inflating it at the region of the constriction to open up the tube. Your doctor monitors the progress of the catheter with the help of imaging techniques. The procedure is repeated several times with different sized balloons until the constriction is satisfactorily expanded.
When balloon dilation does not effectively widen the oesophagus, your doctor may pass an oesophageal stent through your mouth into the oesophagus, through the catheter tube. The stent is a metal mesh tube, which keeps the oesophagus open, allowing easy passage of foods and fluids into the stomach.
Balloon dilation of the oesophagus is usually done on an outpatient basis. However, you may be required to stay in the hospital for a few days if you have a stent inserted. After the procedure, you will be taken to the recovery room, and after about 4 hours, you will be given an imaging dye to swallow, so images of the oesophagus can be taken to evaluate the success of the procedure.
As with any procedure, balloon dilation and balloon stenting may be associated with potential risks such as tearing of your oesophagus, infection, minor bleeding, heart burn and acid reflux.