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What Is a Perforated Esophagus?

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Updated October 20, 2010

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What Is a Perforated Esophagus?

Esophagus

Photo © A.D.A.M.
Question: What Is a Perforated Esophagus?
Answer:

The esophagus is the tube of smooth muscle that moves food from the back of the throat (pharynx) to the stomach. A perforated esophagus has a hole in it. This results in the leaking of food and sometimes even digestive fluid into the chest, and it can result in a serious infection. Causes of a perforated esophagus include:

  • procedures such as an EGD
  • ingestion of hazardous chemicals
  • injuries such as gun shot or stab wounds (rare)

Signs and symptoms of a perforated esophagus include:

  • difficulty swallowing
  • chest pain
  • difficulty breathing
  • rapid breathing and heart rate
  • fever

You need immediate medical attention if you suspect that you may have a perforated esophagus.

Perforation of the esophagus is fairly uncommon but can be quite serious. The condition often requires surgery and antibiotics. A mild perforation in the upper portion of the esophagus may heal without surgery, but patients are often instructed not to eat or drink and may require nutrition from a feeding tube or IV until the esophagus heals. In some cases, an endoscopic procedure to place stents or clips can be used in this situation.

Source:

University of Maryland Medical Center. Esophageal Perforation. Accessed: September 29, 2010 from http://www.umm.edu/ency/article/000231.htm

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