Treatment at Mayo Clinic

By Mayo Clinic Staff

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Aside from the treatment information featured on this page, Mayo Clinic provides all standard treatment options for this condition.

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A team of Mayo Clinic specialists experienced in treating dysphagia will develop a treatment plan based on the cause of your swallowing problem.

Dysphagia caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is usually treated with medications.

Swallowing difficulties caused by motility disorders (esophageal muscle squeezing) may be treated by:

  • Dilation, which is stretching of the narrowed passages
  • OnabotulinumtoxinA (Botox) injections in the lower portion of the esophagus
  • Medications to help relax your esophagus, such as calcium channel blockers

You may be taught exercises and new swallowing techniques to help compensate for dysphagia caused by neurological problems such as Alzheimer's disease or Parkinson's disease.


Surgery may be recommended to relieve swallowing problems caused by throat narrowing or blockages, including bony outgrowths, vocal cord paralysis, GERD and achalasia, or to treat esophageal cancer. Speech and swallowing therapy is usually helpful after surgery.

The type of surgical treatment depends on the cause for dysphagia. Some examples are:

  • Laparoscopic Nissen fundoplication, which involves tightening the lower esophageal sphincter, a muscular valve at the end of the esophagus, to prevent acid reflux in people with GERD.
  • Laparoscopic Heller myotomy, which is used to cut the muscle at the lower end of the esophagus (sphincter) when it fails to open and release food into the stomach in people who have achalasia. Surgeons at Mayo Clinic are able to perform this with minimally invasive surgery, reducing your recovery time.
  • Laryngeal suspension surgery. When swallowing therapy is not helpful in treating dysphagia due to vocal cord paralysis, the voice box can be lifted (suspended) with a surgical procedure to improve swallowing abilities.
  • Esophageal dilation. Your doctor inserts a lighted tube (endoscope) into your esophagus and inflates an attached balloon to gently stretch and expand its width (dilation). This treatment is used for a tight sphincter muscle at the end of the esophagus (achalasia), a narrowing of the esophagus (esophageal stricture), an abnormal ring of tissue located at the junction of the esophagus and stomach (Schatzki's ring) or a motility disorder.
  • Stent placement. The doctor also can insert a metal or plastic tube (stent) to prop open a narrowing or blockage in your esophagus. Some stents are permanent, such as those for people with esophageal cancer, while others are temporary and are removed later. Mayo Clinic is a leader in stent treatments and serves as a test center for evaluating new technologies.
Oct. 15, 2014