What is an esophageal injury?
The esophagus is the tube that connects your
mouth to your stomach. When you eat or
drink, it goes down this tube to reach your
stomach. This type of injury most often
occurs as a wound to your neck such as a
stab or gunshot wound.
What are the signs and symptoms?
Your symptoms will depend on the extent of
your injury. These symptoms most often
include: pain and tenderness in the neck,
problems swallowing, shortness of breath,
rapid breathing, fever, chest pain, and
abdominal pain. Other symptoms that are
seen less often include: bloody sputum,
wheezing while inhaling, and hoarseness.
What tests will I need?
ξ CT scan
How is it treated?
Surgery is often needed to repair the injury.
The surgeons will repair the esophagus by
stitching the tear. They will also place a
drain at the site of the repair to drain any
extra fluid and keep the repaired site clean.
If surgery is not needed, you will be
watched closely for a couple days. During
this time, be sure to let the trauma team
know if your symptoms get worse.
What will happen during my
After surgery or while you are being closely
watched, you will not be able to eat or drink.
The doctors will decide when you may eat
and drink again. You may need to have a
tube placed down your esophagus to help
your stomach get rid of excess gas and fluid.
You will receive fluids through your IV to
keep you hydrated. You may be given tube
feedings for nutrition while allowing extra
time for your esophagus to heal through a
feeding tube in your nose. You will be
given medicine for the pain as you need it.
Please let your nurse know if you are having
pain. You will be given a tetanus shot and
What complications could occur?
If your injury is repaired in surgery,
complications can include a leak, wound
infection, pneumonia, or inflammation of
your chest tissue. To prevent these
problems and catch them early, the staff will
be drawing daily blood tests, taking X-rays,
and checking to see how you breathe and
What should I do if I have problems when I leave the hospital?
Patients can contact the Trauma Clinic at (608) 263-7502
After hours, nights, weekends, and holidays, this will give you the paging operator. Ask for the
resident on call for your clinic. Leave your name and phone number with the area code. The
doctor will call you back.
If you live out of the area, please call 1-800-323-8942 and ask for your clinic.
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 11/2017. University of Wisconsin Hospital
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#6904