Esophagectomy is a surgical procedure to remove part of the tube between your mouth and stomach (esophagus) and then reconstruct it using part of another organ, usually the stomach. Esophagectomy is a common treatment for advanced esophageal cancer, and is used occasionally for Barrett's esophagus if precancerous cells are present.

  • Experience. Mayo Clinic surgeons perform around 130 esophagectomies each year. Studies have shown that people who had esophagectomies at low-volume centers had a much higher risk of dying from the operation than did people treated at high-volume centers (defined as more than 20 esophagectomies per year).
  • A multidisciplinary team of specialized experts. Esophagectomy is an important part of esophageal cancer treatment, which can be extremely complex. At Mayo Clinic, specialists in thoracic surgery, digestive diseases, oncology and other areas work together to make sure that esophagectomy is the best treatment for you. They work as a team to manage your care, before and after surgery.
  • Minimally invasive approach. Mayo Clinic doctors can sometimes perform minimally invasive esophagectomies, which usually result in less pain, shorter hospital stays and faster recovery than traditional open surgery.
  • Comprehensive care. Consultations with doctors, along with testing and treatment, can usually be done in a single visit lasting several days.
  • New ideas. Mayo Clinic specialists are at the forefront of new techniques for esophagectomy. You have access to the expertise of Mayo Clinic's clinician-researchers.

Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., ranks No. 1 for digestive disorders in the U.S. News & World Report Best Hospitals rankings. Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., and Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., are ranked among the Best Hospitals for digestive disorders by U.S. News & World Report. Mayo Clinic also ranks among the Best Children's Hospitals for digestive disorders.

Esophagectomy is the main surgical treatment for esophageal cancer. It is done either to remove the cancer or to relieve symptoms.

During an esophagectomy, the surgeon removes all or part of the esophagus through an incision in the chest. The esophagus is reconstructed using another organ, most commonly the stomach but occasionally the large intestine.

Some esophagectomies can be done with minimally invasive surgery (laparoscopic surgery). The procedure is done through several small incisions and can result in reduced pain and faster recovery than conventional surgery.

At Mayo Clinic, laparoscopic techniques include robot-assisted surgery (robotic surgery) and new procedures that access the esophagus through the throat and through small incisions in the abdomen and behind the collarbone.

Before surgery

An important aspect of esophagectomy is determining which type of the procedure is best for you. To guide that decision, Mayo Clinic specialists use state-of-the-art imaging techniques, such as CT, MRI and positron emission tomography (PET) imaging, as well as endoscopic ultrasound and fine-needle biopsies during endoscopy.

Typically, you'll have preoperative medical testing that may include a heart (cardiac) evaluation to check for cardiovascular disease, which could complicate surgery.

Before esophagectomy, Mayo Clinic doctors may recommend chemotherapy or radiation or both, followed by a period of recovery.

After surgery

Your Mayo Clinic doctor will likely recommend home enteral nutrition (tube feeding) for four to six weeks to ensure adequate nutrition while you recover. Once you resume a normal diet, the stomach's reduced size means you will need to eat smaller quantities. You may lose weight after surgery.

Follow-up care

Most people report improved quality of life after esophagectomy, but some symptoms usually continue. Mayo Clinic has comprehensive follow-up care to prevent complications after surgery and to help you adjust your lifestyle.

Follow-up care includes:

  • Lung therapy (pulmonary rehabilitation) to prevent breathing problems
  • Pain management to treat heartburn and problems with swallowing
  • Nutritional assessments to help with weight loss
  • Psychosocial care if needed

At Mayo Clinic, we assemble a team of specialists who take the time to listen and thoroughly understand your health issues and concerns. We tailor the care you receive to your personal health care needs. You can trust our specialists to collaborate and offer you the best possible outcomes, safety and service.

Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit medical institution that reinvests all earnings into improving medical practice, research and education. We're constantly involved in innovation and medical research, finding solutions to improve your care and quality of life. Your doctor or someone on your medical team is likely involved in research related to your condition.

Our patients tell us that the quality of their interactions, our attention to detail and the efficiency of their visits mean health care — and trusted answers — like they've never experienced.

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Mayo Clinic works with hundreds of insurance companies and is an in-network provider for millions of people. In most cases, Mayo Clinic doesn't require a physician referral. Some insurers require referrals or may have additional requirements for certain medical care. All appointments are prioritized on the basis of medical need.

Specialists in cardiothoracic surgery provide esophagectomy treatment.

For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 800-446-2279 (toll-free) 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mountain Standard Time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.

Specialists in cardiothoracic surgery provide esophagectomy treatment.

For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 904-953-0853 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.

Specialists in thoracic surgery provide esophagectomy treatment.

For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 507-538-3270 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Central time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.

See information on patient services at the three Mayo Clinic locations, including transportation options and lodging.

Mayo Clinic researchers are working to improve treatment with esophagectomy. Studies cover a wide range of areas, including less-invasive laparoscopic techniques, complications of esophagectomy and the role of endoscopic methods in treating Barrett's esophagus with high-grade dysplasia to avoid surgery.

See a list of publications by Mayo Clinic doctors onesophagectomy on PubMed, a service of the National Library of Medicine.

May 13, 2015