Esophageal dysphagia typically results from a motility disorder or a physical obstruction that prevents food and drink from passing easily through the esophagus. Motility disorders and obstructions that lead to esophageal dysphagia include:
- A narrowing of the esophagus (strictures)
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE)
- Achalasia or other motility disorders such as Jackhammer esophagus
- A benign or cancerous growth or blockage
- Zenker’s diverticulum
Esophageal dysphagia is diagnosed with a variety of tests, and can often be alleviated with minimally invasive surgical or endoscopic procedures.
Diagnostic Tests for Esophageal Dysphagia
If you experience difficulty swallowing, frequent coughing or gagging while eating, or feel like food is stuck in your throat, your doctor may recommend one or more of the following tests to determine the severity of your dysphagia.
A barium liquid is swallowed and travels the length of your esophagus. X-ray images show how food and liquid travel through your esophagus.
Upper Endoscopy (EGD)
Your doctor inserts a flexible tube into your mouth to view the inside of your esophagus, stomach, and small intestine.
A tiny electronic device is inserted into your nose and guided to your esophagus via a thin, flexible tube called a catheter. It evaluates motility by monitoring strength and patterns of muscle function within the esophagus.
During endoscopy, your gastroenterologist uses a device to measure pressures inside your esophagus and assess esophageal motility.
Duke Health offers locations throughout the Triangle. Find one near you.
Why Choose Duke
Our gastroenterologists have completed specialized training and are highly skilled in the use of endoscopy to diagnose dysphagia and other esophageal motility disorders. Our board-certified surgeons have additional fellowship training in thoracic surgery. This includes specialized procedures in and around the esophagus.
A Team of Specialists for Your Condition
Because dysphagia can result from many different conditions, a team of experts from different specialties may be involved in your care. This may include highly trained, board-certified speech pathologists and otolaryngologists, as well as gastroenterologists and neurologists. We work together to ensure you receive the best treatment for your condition.
More Complex Procedures
If your condition requires surgery, you may benefit from our use of robot-assisted surgery, which allows our surgeons to visualize the surgical site better. The precision of the robotic tools allows our doctors to do more complex procedures in smaller areas and place sutures with greater accuracy.
Our specialists have made major contributions that have improved treatment and outcomes for people with esophageal dysphagia, and conduct clinical trials to uncover better treatment options. For example, Duke doctors pioneered endoscopic staple diverticulostomy (ESD), the first minimally invasive surgery for Zenker’s diverticulum.
Where you receive your care matters. Duke University Hospital is proud of our team and the exceptional care they provide. They are why our gastroenterology and GI surgery program is nationally ranked, and the highest ranked program in North Carolina, according to U.S. News & World Report for 2021–2022.