Path to Dysphagia Diagnosis
  • Carinda Stout, MS CCC/SLP

The Esophageal Sweep: A Closer Look

Anatomically, swallowing disorders have been divided into three phases: oral, pharyngeal, and esophageal. Dysphagia can occur in any of these three phases. Our swallow studies typically include an anterior to posterior view of the entire swallowing mechanism from the oral cavity extending down to the stomach to view all 3 phases of the swallow. If any indications of esophageal dysphagia are observed during the Modified Barium Swallow study, a consult with a Gastroenterologist will be recommended for further evaluation and potential diagnosis.

Our swallow studies typically include an anterior to posterior view of the entire swallowing mechanism from the oral cavity extending down to the stomach to view all 3 phases of the swallow.

Esophageal dysphagia refers to the sensation of food sticking or getting hung up in the base of the throat or in the chest. Some of the causes of esophageal dysphagia may include:


Achalasia is when the lower esophageal muscle (sphincter) doesn't relax properly to let food enter the stomach, it may cause you to bring food back up into your throat. Muscles in the wall of the esophagus may be weak as well, a condition that tends to worsen over time.


Diffuse spasm is a condition that produces multiple high-pressure, poorly coordinated contractions of the esophagus, usually after you swallow. Diffuse spasm affects the involuntary muscles in the walls of the lower esophagus.


Esophageal stricture is a narrowed esophagus (stricture) which can trap large pieces of food. Tumors or scar tissue, often caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), can cause narrowing.


Esophageal tumors cause difficulty swallowing to get progressively worse.

Foreign bodies are sometimes food or another object can partially block the throat or esophagus. Older adults with dentures and people who have difficulty chewing their food may be more likely to have a piece of food become lodged in the throat or esophagus.


Esophageal ring is a thin area of narrowing in the lower esophagus can intermittently cause difficulty swallowing solid foods.


GERD is damage to esophageal tissues from stomach acid backing up into the esophagus can lead to spasm or scarring and narrowing of the lower esophagus.


Eosinophilic esophagitis is a condition which may be related to a food allergy that is caused by an overpopulation of cells called eosinophils in the esophagus.


Scleroderma is the development of scar-like tissue, causing stiffening and hardening of tissues, can weaken the lower esophageal sphincter, allowing acid to back up into the esophagus and cause frequent heartburn.


Radiation therapy can lead to inflammation and scarring of the esophagus.


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