Esophagus removal is a part of the treatment strategy for esophageal cancer and other esophageal diseases. In an esophageal resection procedure, either the esophagus is removed alone, or esophagus and portion of the stomach are excised. Read on to know more.
Esophagus is a part of the digestive system that extends from the pharynx to the stomach. Measuring about 25 – 30 cm long, this food pipe receives masticated food from the mouth and passes it to the stomach for further digestion. Any abnormality in food swallowing and persistent esophagus pain are indications that something is wrong with this muscular tube. While esophagus removal is proceeded in rare instances, the prospective candidates for surgery are those having esophageal cancer, Barrett’s esophagus, severe esophagus injury and progressive inflammation.
Esophagus Removal Surgery
Surgery is a reliable intervention for esophageal cancer, under the condition that cancerous cells are not spread to adjacent parts, i.e., diagnosis is done before metastasis. Also, the patient should be fit enough to undergo surgery. In short, treatment plan for esophageal cancer is decided based on the individual health condition and cancer stage at the time of diagnosis. Surgery conducted for removing esophagus is termed as esophageal resection. Based on the therapeutic approach for surgery, it is further classified into two types, which are explained below.
This procedure involves partial removal of esophagus, where malignant cells are present. If required, the lymph nodes located near the esophageal cancer are excised. Needless to mention, removal of esophagus is not the end of esophageal disease treatment. The remaining part of the food pipe (if applicable) and the stomach are connected to function as a continuous digestive system. In esophagectomy, either the stomach is stretched to the chest for connecting with the esophagus, or reconnection is done by taking out a part of the large intestine.
This type of surgery is conducted on patients in whom tumor cells are located in the lower esophagus as well as in the upper stomach. To be more precise, this surgery is conducted for patients having advanced stage of esophageal cancer. Esophagogastrectomy encompasses excising the lower section of the esophageal tube and upper section of the stomach. In this procedure, the adjacent lymph nodes may also be removed to minimize spreading of cancer cells. Similar to esophagectomy, esophagus and stomach are reconnected by stretching the stomach to the food pipe or joining them with a section of colon.
Post Surgery Recovery Period
Following the surgery for esophagus removal, the candidate is transferred to a recovery room, where he/she is monitored for vital signs. Postoperative care includes keeping the incision area clean, pain management with medications, feeding intravenously or via feeding tubes and checking for infections. The patient is expected to stay in the hospital for at least one week. The recovery period post surgery via laparoscopy is comparatively shorter than that of the traditional open surgery. Nevertheless, these are major operation procedures and surgery complications existing in both cases. Hence, understanding the recovery guidelines is necessary to ensure quick recuperation.
The outcome of esophageal resection depends on several aspects. However, the main objective is to prevent infections and surgery complications, while promoting complete recovery. Of course, life after the esophagus has been removed is not so easy for patients. But adopting proper care guidelines and lifestyle changes will make the condition a lot better. The candidate should be encouraged to consume liquid diet and soft foods as directed by the concerned surgeon. Never feed large meals to a patient, rather he/she should be given a small serving of meals and snacks at frequent intervals. Also, performing deep breathing exercises and mild movement activities (like walking) help in prompt recovery.
If symptoms like high temperature, chills and pain that persist for a longer period are manifested in the recovery period, seek medical attention as soon as possible. These are signs of infections, and should be addressed promptly. For people having esophageal cancer, esophagus removal surgery is conducted in association with traditional cancer treatment strategies, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Based on the patient’s condition, these cancer therapies may precede or follow surgery.