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Torn Esophagus

The tube that takes food and liquids from the mouth to the stomach is called the esophagus. When the esophagus is has a hole, it is referred to as a torn esophagus.  This condition is not uncommon but is has serious medical implications. The only way to treat a torn esophagus is through surgery and if it is left untreated, it can pose a huge threat to life.

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Causes of torn esophagus

The esophagus is divided into three distinct sections:

  • The cervical esophagus – this is the section that is found inside the neck
  • The thoracic esophagus – this is the section that is found inside your chest
  • The abdominal esophagus – this is the section that is found inside your abdomen

The esophagus can develop a hole inside any of these sections. Mostly, the esophagus will get perforated during the execution of another medical procedure.  Sometimes medical instruments have to be channels through the esophagus for internal observation and function and these are the most common culprits when it comes to perforating the esophagus. Today, the medical instruments are flexible and the risk of getting a torn esophagus is very low.

There are other less-common causes of a torn esophagus and these are:

  • Having a tumour in the throat
  • The development of ulcers in the throat brought about by gastroesopageal reflux disease or GERD
  • The accidental swallowing of chemicals, acids and foreign objects
  • Any physical injury or trauma to the neck
  • Violent vomiting can also bring about a torn esophagus

Symptoms

There will be a lot of pain in the area where the perforation is located. The pain will be very unsettling and persistent. You will also feel a lot of pain in your chest area, and you will have trouble swallowing food.

There are other related symptoms and these include:

  • An increase in heart rate
  • The patient will have rapid breathing
  • The patient will have low blood pressure
  • The body may have high fever and also some chills
  • Vomiting, where the vomit will have blood
  • If the tear is found in the cervical section, there will be pain and stiffness in the neck

Diagnosis

This is an important procedure to rule out other diseases. An X-ray or CT scan will help the doctor look for a tear in the esophagus. He will also check to see if there are air bubbles in your chest or any abscesses, which may be filled with pus. The doctor will also need to find out if there was any fluid that had leaked from your esophagus to your lungs.

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Treatment for Torn Esophagus

The torn esophagus should be treated as soon as possible so as to prevent infection. The sooner you are treated, the better the result will be. You should actually get treated within 24 hours.

If fluid leaks from the esophagus to the lungs can cause breathing difficulties and infections of the lungs.

You may also develop a permanent stricture of the esophagus. This is the narrowing the affected part of the esophagus. This will make swallowing food more difficult in the future.

In order to prevent these complications, early treatment should include removal of any fluid that may have leaked into your chest cavity. Antibiotics are given to prevent infections. You will not eat or drink anything. All foods and drugs will e given through an IV line. They may decide to give you solid food through a feeding tube.

If the hole is small, and found in the cervical section, it may heal on its own, as long as there was no leakage of fluids into your chest cavity. The doctor will determine the best course of action after the diagnosis.

For people who have a torn esophagus in the chest or abdominal areas, surgery is necessary. The surgeon removes all scar tissue that may have formed around the hole and then sew it shut.

If the tear is very large, then it may require the removal of a section of your esophagus. This is called partial esophagectomy. This remaining part will then be reconnected to the stomach.

Torn Esophagus – Recovery

If you receive treatment quickly, then the outlook is great and you will recover quickly. The chances of survival are high when the treatment is done within the first 24 hours after tearing the esophagus. If treatment is delayed, then the chances of survival go down very fast.

After going home, if you have trouble breathing or swallowing, you should go back to the hospital immediately. Even if you develop other symptoms of a torn esophagus you should go back; there are chances that the surgery was not successful and has to be done again

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