Understanding Esophageal Dilation

Welcome to our Patient Education page!

Our team of specialists and staff strive to improve the overall health of our patients by focusing on preventing, diagnosing and treating conditions associated with your digestive system. Please use the search field below to browse our website. You'll find a wide array of information about our office, your digestive health, and treatments available. If you have questions or need to schedule an appointment, contact our office.

Screening or Diagnostic Colonoscopy?

All colonoscopies, whether diagnostic or screening, are billed under the CPT/Procedure code 45378.  The diagnosis or reason for the colonoscopy is what determines if the procedure is diagnostic/surveillance or preventative/screening. 
 

Diagnostic/Surveillance Colonoscopy: 

The patient has past and/or present gastrointestinal symptoms, polyps, GI disease, iron deficiency anemia and/or any other abnormal tests OR the patient is currently asymptomatic (no gastrointestinal symptoms either past or present) but has a personal history of GI disease, personal and/or family history of colon polyps and/or colon cancer.  Patients in this category are required to undergo colonoscopy surveillance at shortened intervals (e.g. every 2-5 years). 

Insurance plans process these claims subject to the individuals deductible and co-insurance requirements.

Preventative Screening Colonoscopy:

The patient is asymptomatic (no gastrointestinal symptoms either past or present), age 50 or greater, has no personal or family history of GI disease, colon polyps, and/or cancer.  The patient has not undergone a colonoscopy within the last 10 years.

Insurance plans usually process these claims under the wellness benefit, payable at 100% if it is a benefit of the individual’s health insurance plan.

Frequently asked questions:

Who will bill me?

You may receive bills for your procedure from the physician, the facility, anesthesia, pathologist and/or laboratory. 

Can the physician change, add, or delete my diagnosis so that my procedure can be considered a preventative/wellness/routine screening?

NO!  The patient encounter is documented as a medical record from the information you have provided, as well as what is obtained during our pre-procedure history and assessment.  It is a binding legal document that cannot be changed to facilitate better insurance coverage.

What if my insurance company tells me that the doctor can change, add or delete a CPT or diagnosis code?

This happens a lot. Often the representative will tell the patient that if the “doctor had coded this as a screening, it would be paid at 100%."  A member services representative should never suggest a physician alter a medical record for billing purposes. 


FAQS - Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How long will my procedure take?
A: Plan to spend 2- 2 1/2 hours with us from the time you arrive until when you are released to go home. The procedures themselves are relatively quick.
- An upper endoscopy takes 8-10 minutes, depending on what is found and the need for biopsies.
- A colonoscopy usually takes about 20-25 minutes, again depending on the findings and need for polyp removal, biopsies, etc.
The rest of your stay involves going over the consent prior to the procedure, a physical assessment, taking vital signs, placing an IV and attaching you to a continuous monitor. After the procedure, you will stay under our observation until you are deemed ready to be driven home.
 
Q: Can I drive myself home after the procedure?
A: No. The anesthesia and sedation we use, while relatively short-acting, can have subtle effects for hours after your procedure. Possible drowsiness and delayed reaction times make driving potentially dangerous. Therefore, having someone drive you home is necessary. You may drive and return to normal activities the following day.
 
Q: How soon can I eat and drink after my procedure?
A: Usually immediately after you leave the office, unless you are told otherwise. It is best to avoid heavy meals for that day.
 
Q: Can I take routine medications the day of the procedure?
A: Please do not take any of your medications except those for blood pressure, heart and seizures unless otherwise instructed by your physician.
 
Q: Do I need antibiotics prior to my procedure for an artificial joint?
A: No. The American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy has concluded that antibiotic use for a patient with an artificial joint is not necessary.
 
Q: What happens if I begin to vomit during my prep?
A: Wait 1-2 hours to allow your stomach to settle. Start to drink the solution at a slower pace- every 20-30 minutes. This will take longer but should keep you from vomiting the rest of the solution.
 
Q: I have my period. Can I still have my colonoscopy?
A: Yes. This will not interfere with your procedure. You may use a tampon during the procedure.
 
Q: Do I have to drink all of my prep?
A: Yes. You want your colon completely cleaned out. This allows the physician to find and treat the smallest and flattest polyps.
 
Q: I’m diabetic. What precautions should I take?
A: If you are diabetic, we will give you special instructions. You will need to let us know ALL of your medications and doses. You should check your blood sugars periodically throughout the day of the prep and the procedure. Since you are on clear liquids, your blood sugar will tend to drop faster than normal. To avoid this, be sure to include some liquids with sugar.
 
Q: What if I forget to stop my blood thinners?
A: Please contact the office.
 
Q: Can I take over the counter medications with my prep?
A: Most over the counter medications are acceptable except fish oil, aspirin, Motrin, Advil, ibuprofen, Aleve, naprosyn, naproxen or iron supplements. Tylenol will not interfere with your procedure.
 
Q: Is it OK to drink alcohol?
A: NO! We strongly suggest that you avoid all alcohol before your procedure as it can cause dehydration and may thin your blood.
 
Q: Can I brush my teeth?
A: Yes.
 
Q: Can I chew gum or suck on hard candy?
A: Yes, but no red candy or candy with soft centers. Nothing after midnight.
 
Q: What can I take for a headache?
A: Tylenol or Extra-Strength Tylenol only.

This information was developed by the Publications Committee of the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE). For more information about ASGE, visit www.asge.org.

This information is intended only to provide general guidance. It does not provide definitive medical advice. It is important that you consult your doctor about your specific condition.

The doctor may spray a local anesthetic into the throat and give you sedatives to help you relax before passing the endoscope through your mouth and into the esophagus. Then your doctor will determine whether to use a dilating balloon or plastic dilators to stretch your esophagus.

What is Esophageal Dilation?

Esophageal dilation is a procedure that allows your doctor to dilate, or stretch, a narrowed area of your esophagus [swallowing tube]. Doctors can use various techniques for this procedure. Your doctor might perform the procedure as part of a sedated endoscopy. Alternatively, your doctor might apply a local anesthetic spray to the back of your throat and then pass a weighted dilator through your mouth and into your esophagus.

Why is esophageal dilation done?

The most common cause of narrowing of the esophagus, or stricture, is scarring of the esophagus from reflux of stomach acid occurring in patients with heartburn. Patients with a narrowed portion of the esophagus often have trouble swallowing; food feels like it is "stuck" in the chest region, causing discomfort or pain. Less common causes of esophageal narrowing are webs or rings (which are thin layers of excess tissue), cancer of the esophagus, scarring after radiation treatment or a disorder of the way the esophagus moves [motility disorder].

 

An endoscope is a medical device used by expert physicians to look inside the digestive tract.

How should I prepare for the procedure?

An empty stomach allows for the best and safest examination, so you should have nothing to drink, including water, for at least six hours before the examination. Your doctor will tell you when to start fasting. Tell your doctor in advance about any medications you take, particularly aspirin products or anticoagulants (blood thinners such as warfarin or heparin), or clopidogrel. Most medications can be continued as usual, but you might need to adjust your usual dose before the examination. Your doctor will give you specific guidance. Tell your doctor if you have any allergies to medications as well as medical conditions such as heart or lung disease. Also, tell your doctor if you require antibiotics prior to dental procedures, because you might need antibiotics prior to esophageal dilation as well.

What can I expect during esophageal dilation?

Your doctor might perform esophageal dilation with sedation along with an upper endoscopy. Your doctor may spray your throat with a local anesthetic spray, and then give you sedatives to help you relax. Your doctor then will pass the endoscope through your mouth and into the esophagus, stomach and duodenum. The endoscope does not interfere with your breathing. At this point your doctor will determine whether to use a dilating balloon or plastic dilators over a guiding wire to stretch your esophagus. You might experience mild pressure in the back of your throat or in your chest during the procedure. Alternatively, your doctor might start by spraying your throat with a local anesthetic. Your doctor will then pass a tapered dilating instrument through your mouth and guide it into the esophagus. Your doctor may also use x-rays during the esophageal dilation procedure.

These endoscopic images show views of the esophagus with findings of severe gastroesophageal reflux disease, a common cause of esophageal narrowing that may be treated with dilation.

What can I expect after esophageal dilation?

After the dilation is done, you will probably be observed for a short period of time and then allowed to return to your normal activities. You may resume drinking when the anesthetic no longer causes numbness to your throat, unless your doctor instructs you otherwise. Most patients experience no symptoms after this procedure and can resume eating the next day, but you might experience a mild sore throat for the remainder of the day. Your doctor will advise you on eating and drinking. If you received sedatives, you probably will be monitored in a recovery area until you are ready to leave. You will not be allowed to drive after the procedure even though you might not feel tired. You should arrange for someone to accompany you home, because the sedatives might affect your judgment and reflexes for the rest of the day.

What are the potential complications of esophageal dilation?

Although complications can occur even when the procedure is performed correctly, they are rare when performed by doctors who are specially trained. A perforation, or a hole of the esophagus lining, occurs in a small percentage of cases and may require surgery. A tear of the esophagus lining may occur and bleeding may result. There are also possible risks of side effects from sedatives. It is important to recognize early signs of possible complications. If you have chest pain, fever, trouble breathing, difficulty swallowing, bleeding or black bowel movements after the test, tell your doctor immediately.

Will repeat dilations be necessary?

Depending on the degree and cause of narrowing of your esophagus, it is common to require repeat dilations. This allows the dilation to be performed gradually and decreases the risk of complications. Once the stricture, or narrowed esophagus, is completely dilated, repeat dilations may not be required. If the stricture was due to acid reflux, acid-suppressing medicines can decrease the risk of stricture recurrence. Your doctor will advise you on this.