Esophageal spasm is pain and difficulty in swallowing
due to abnormal clenching of the muscles in the esophagus.
Symptoms of Esophageal Spasm
The symptoms of esophageal spasm are:
- Dull or intense pain under the breast bone
- The pain may then radiate to the jaw and arm
- Difficulty swallowing
- Involuntary regurgitation of food
Esophageal spasm can occur by itself or right after a severe
Esophageal Spasm Diagnosis
Because the symptoms of esophageal spasm are similar to that
of a heart attack, your doctor would first perform test to rule
out a heart attack.
Diagnosing esophageal spasm is difficult, because outside of
the spasm attack, the esophagus looks perfectly normal.
Tests for esophageal spasm include:
Tissue sample or biopsy of the lower esophagus usually reveals
tissue damage due to stomach acid (gastroesophageal
- pH probe
This measures the acidity of the area and is used to rule out
gastroesophageal reflux as the cause.
- Esophageal manometry
This test measures muscle contractions in the esophagus
Prevention of Esophageal Spasm
Instances of the spasm can be avoided by:
- Swallowing only well-chewed food in small pieces
- Avoiding hot food or hot and cold drinks
- Avoiding relapse of gastroesophageal reflux, if present
- Reducing stress.
Treatments for Esophageal Spasm
The treatments for this condition include:
Nitroglycerin and isosorbide dinitrate used for treating heart
attack can alleviate the spasm and chest pain.
- Anticholinergic drugs
These are medications that relax the smooth muscle, such as
hyoscyamine sulfate, dicyclomine, or propantheline bromide.
- Calcium channel antagonists
These medicines are commonly used to treat high blood pressure.
- Gastroesophageal reflux medications
- Psychiatric drugs for panic attack and depression
- Pneumatic dilator
A balloon is inserted into the esophagus and then inflated to
dilate the esophagus.
A bougie (“boojie”) is a weighted, tapered rubber
device which is used to flatten the esophageal tissue and widen
A surgical cut along the length of the esophagus is done to
prevent complete contraction of the muscle in the esophagus.