By Marc Courtiol
There are a number of reasons why someone might need esophageal surgery. Cancer, esophageal diverticula, GERD, and certain motility disorders are all reasons why this type of surgery might be recommended by your doctor. Regardless of why you or someone you know has to have esophageal surgery, it is important to understand the possible complications that may follow such a procedure.
Some of the most common complications following esophageal surgery include damage to the surrounding organs and/or tissues. It is important to realize this going in, as sometimes even the simplest of procedures can prove to be tricky at some point during the operation. There is a small percentage of a chance that your spleen, liver, esophagus, or stomach might be injured to some degree during your surgery.
Discuss these possibilities with your physician before your procedure so that you will have a better understanding of what might happen during the course of your treatment. Should any type of injury or damage occur, the severity of the resulting complications will depend on the extent of the damage that has been inflicted.
Another complication of esophageal surgery is that it is not reversible, so any damage done during your operation is not likely to be correctable. Of course, this makes esophageal surgery an even greater risk than many other types of surgery, so please discuss your options thoroughly with your physician before choosing surgery as your best option.
You should also be aware that many of the symptoms related to complications from this type of surgery are not treatable. This simply adds to the risk factors associated with having esophageal surgery, and it gives patients much more to think about as they consider this type of treatment option.
A relatively small percentage of patients may experience difficulty swallowing, bloating, gas, or vomiting for an extended period of time following esophageal surgery. In some instances, patients have quickly developed permanent changes in their bowel habits. Unfortunately, these are complications that simply cannot be predicted prior to surgery.
An especially uncomfortable complication that may arise after surgery is the esophagus sliding out of the section of the stomach that is wrapped. If this were to happen, the valve would no longer be supported and would require immediate medical attention.
Recurring heartburn is, ironically, another common complication following this type of procedure. Many of these types of surgeries are performed to help alleviate such symptoms, yet often times the heartburn returns (or in fact never really goes away).
Complications from anesthesia are always a risk with any type of surgery, but your physician should be able to discuss this with you in-depth prior to your procedure so that you feel more at ease about your particular risk of complications.
Lastly, with any type of surgery there is also a risk of infection or internal bleeding. Because of these risks you will more than likely have to remain in the hospital for at least a few days following your procedure so that your condition can be monitored regularly.
Ultimately, it will be up to you to make an informed decision regarding whether you think the risks associated with esophageal surgery are worth it. Talk to your doctor and explore any other alternatives that you may have before you commit to this procedure.