Esophageal Balloon Endoscopy

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Esophageal balloon endoscopy is a type of esophageal dilation done to allow the doctor to stretch, or dilate, any narrowed areas of the patient’s esophagus. This may be done as part of an exploratory endoscopy or on its own. Patients should take the time to learn about this procedure before having it done so that they are fully prepared and know what the expect before, during, and after the procedure.

Why is it Done?

This procedure is most often done due to reflux of stomach acid-related scarring of the esophagus. This may result in esophageal narrowing, or stricture. The patients who have this procedure done for this reason often experience heart burn as the first sign of this issue. Patients who have a narrowed area of their esophagus may experience feeling like they have food stuck in their chest, which can cause pain or discomfort and difficulty swallowing. Other possible causes of esophageal narrowing include rings or webs, scarring after radiation treatment, cancer of the esophagus, or a motility disorder.

Patient Preparation

Patients will need to secure transportation to and from their esophageal balloon endoscopy. They must tell their doctor if they could be pregnant, are taking blood thinners, have neck or throat issues, bleeding problems, heart or lung disease, an esophageal tear, or diabetes.

Patients may need pre-admission testing, such as a barium swallow before the procedure, a contrast x-ray, an endoscopy, an ultrasound, or a computed tomography scan.


For the procedure patients may be given a local anesthetic, sedation, or general anesthesia. Once proper anesthesia and/or sedation is given, the doctor will begin by carefully passing an endoscope through the patient’s mouth into his or her esophagus, stomach, and duodenum. A deflated balloon dilator is then inserted through the endoscope to the stricture and across it. When the balloon is inflated, it is shaped similar to a sausage, and then it stretches and breaks the stricture. The procedure itself will take approximately 30 minutes to complete. Patients who remain awake during the procedure may experience some discomfort.

Possible Risks

There are possible risks with this procedure. These may include experiencing an abnormal reaction to the sedatives or anesthesia used, the GI tract being accidentally punctured, and bleeding from a biopsy if a biopsy is performed.

Rare effects that warrant the patient contacting his or her doctor immediately include difficulty swallowing, vomiting, fever, very dark or bloody stool, and worsening pain in the chest, throat, or abdomen.

If a hole, or perforation, occurs in the esophagus lining, the patient may need surgery. An esophageal tear in the lining of the esophagus is possible and may cause bleeding.

Patients should seek emergency medical attention if they experience unintentional weight loss, have difficulty swallowing or have food stuck in their throat.


Once the procedure is over he or she will be moved to recovery where they will be observed for a few hours. Once they leave the hospital, they will be able to go back to their normal schedule in most cases. Most patients resume eating normally the day following the procedure, but may have a sore throat for a few days. If a patient needs special instructions, such as special diet, medications, or medication changes, his or her doctor will provide these instructions before they leave the hospital. If a biopsy was performed, the patient should receive his or her results within a few days.


American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy. (2010). Understanding Esophageal Dilation. Retrieved on December 22, 2010 from the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy: (2010). Esophageal Dilatation. Retrieved on December 22, 2010 from