(Removal of the Esophagus)
by Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
An esophagectomy is the removal of part or all of the esophagus. The esophagus is the tube that runs from the mouth to the stomach.
Reasons for Procedure
This is done to treat:
Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:
Things that may raise the risk of problems are:
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
The surgical team may meet with you to talk about:
General anesthesia will be used. You will be asleep.
Description of the Procedure
There are 3 different methods:
A replacement esophagus will be formed with part of the stomach or large intestine. The remainder of the esophagus will be attached to this replacement. The lymph nodes of people who have cancer may also be removed. One or more chest tubes are placed to drain fluids. The incisions will be closed. Bandages will be placed over them.
How Long Will It Take?
About 6 hours
Will It Hurt?
Pain and swelling are common in the first few weeks. Medicine and home care can help.
Average Hospital Stay
The usual length of stay is 1 to 2 weeks. If you have any problems, you may need to stay longer.
At the Hospital
Right after the procedure, the staff may:
During your stay, the hospital staff will take steps to lower your risk of infection, such as:
There are also steps you can take to lower your risk of infection, such as:
It will take 6 to 8 weeks to recover. Physical activity will be limited at first. Dietary changes will also need to be made. You will need to ask for help with daily activities and delay return to work.
Call Your Doctor
Call your doctor if you are not getting better or you have:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Cancer Society
National Cancer Institute
Canadian Cancer Society
Esophagectomy. UCSF website. Available at: https://surgery.ucsf.edu/conditions--procedures/esophagectomy.aspx. Accessed December 3, 2020.
Management of esophageal and esophagogastric junction cancer. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/management/management-of-esophageal-and-esophagogastric-junction-cancer. Accessed December 3, 2020.
Rustgi AK, El-Serag HB. Esophageal carcinoma. N Engl J Med. 2014 Dec 25;371(26):2499-2509.
Surgical removal of the esophagus (esophagectomy). UC Davis Health System website. Available at:
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Accessed December 3, 2020.
Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated: 4/20/2021
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