What are oesophageal strictures?
The oesophagus carries food from the mouth to the stomach after swallowing. Strictures are a narrowing of the oesophagus due to the formation of scar tissue. In dogs, oesophageal strictures occur most commonly secondary to acid reflux during an anaesthetic. In cats, oesophageal strictures are most commonly seen following certain medications which can irritate the oesophagus.
How can I tell if my dog or cat has an oesophageal stricture?
Trouble when eating or drinking is often the main sign of oesophageal disease. Many patients choke when eating certain food types, for instance, struggling with biscuits but managing soft food or water. Regurgitation is also very common in oesophageal strictures – this is where undigested food is brought up shortly after eating (this can sometimes be hard to tell apart from vomiting). Animals with regurgitation can sometimes develop pneumonia, so a cough may be present too.
How is an oesophageal stricture diagnosed?
Plain x-rays may sometimes be suggestive of an oesophageal stricture however it is best diagnosed with a combination of a fluoroscopy visualised swallowing study and endoscopy.
How is an oesophageal stricture treated?
Balloon dilation of an oesophageal stricture is often effective in short-term however recurrence of the stricture is relatively common. The vast majority of patients will require several balloon dilations to be performed. At Fitzpatrick Referrals, we perform oesophageal balloon dilation under fluoroscopic assistance, as it is widely considered that this allows more effective ballooning to be performed. In some refractory cases, an indwelling balloon can be placed for up to six weeks which families will dilate at home to prevent strictures reforming – our Interventional Radiologist Gerard McLauchlan, has placed several of these indwelling balloons with excellent results.