Nonneoplastic disorders
Impacted food

Topic Completed: 1 June 2016

Revised: 22 August 2019

Copyright: 2003-2019,, Inc.

PubMed search: Impacted food esophagus

Nat Pernick, M.D.
Page views in 2018: 102
Page views in 2019 to date: 147
Cite this page: Pernick N. Impacted food. website. Accessed December 10th, 2019.
Definition / general
  • Example: liver tissue with diffuse thermal artifact if food is cooked
  • No esophageal squamous mucosa
  • Occurs in approximately 13 per 100,000 adults per year
  • Most common in patients with underlying pathology, such as strictures or eosinophilic esophagitis
  • Less frequent causes include esophageal cancer and motility disorders
Clinical features
  • Symptoms: dysphagia, odynophagia, retrosternal pain, foreign body sensation, vomiting and respiratory issues from tracheal compression
  • Patients can clearly specify the onset of symptoms, although the location of the pain may not correlate with the actual area of the impaction
  • Most small foreign bodies (including nonfood objects) pass spontaneously through the gastrointestinal system in about 4 - 6 days once they have cleared the esophagus
  • Should be removed within 24 hours to prevent complications such as perforation, abscess and fistula
  • Typically, treated by breaking it up and pushing it into the stomach but if this is not possible, it can usually be retrieved using different types of endoscopic devices
  • Surgery is reserved for cases that fail endoscopic removal or if perforation is suspected
  • Follow up should include a diagnostic workup to rule out underlying disease (Endoscopy 2016;48:489)
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