Caustic Injury to the Esophagus
Caustic injuries to the esophagus are tissue
damage caused by swallowing a toxic or caustic substance. There
are three types of injuries:
- Superficial injury
A minor damage to the surface lining of the esophagus.
- Damage to the esophagus wall
- Perforation or rupture of the esophagus
This severe damage requires surgery.
There are many caustic chemicals that can injure the esophagus
when accidentally ingested, the most common of which are lye
Symptoms of Caustic Injury
Many chemicals that cause caustic injury to the esophagus create
immediate pain and are therefore quickly vomited. However, there
are other chemicals, such as the lye found in drain opener products,
which can cause severe injury without producing pain, having any
particular taste, or creating an urge to vomit.
When Should I See a Doctor?
If you swallowed anything that you suspect can hurt you, don’t
wait to see if it’s painful - call your doctor or a local
poison control center immediately or go to the emergency room.
If you accidentally ingested lye or acids, do not try to neutralize
it with baking soda or drink anything without consulting your
Treatments for Caustic Injury
The treatments for this condition include:
- Corticosteroid to prevent scar tissue formation and stricture
or narrowing of the esophagus
- Antibiotics to prevent infection
- Intravenous line to prevent dehydration and malnourishment
and to avoid further damage to the esophagus from eating and
- Medications to reduce gastric acid secretion
- Surgery to remove the damaged tissues, if the esophagus is
If improperly treated, wound to the esophagus may form scar tissues
when it heals. This scar tissue can cause stricture,
or narrowing of the esophagus that can lead to swallowing difficulties