Thoracic Surgical Associates of St. Luke's

Esophageal Diseases

The Esophageal Surgical Center at St. Luke's

Download and print Instructions for Care after Esophageal Surgery

Benign Conditions


Achalasia is the most common motor disorder of the esophagus. Patients usually have difficulty swallowing food and at times can regurgitate undigested food. There are multiple treatment options when a patient is diagnosed with achalasia and the best option will depend on the patient's degree of symptoms and esophageal pathology. The patient may be started on medication initially or referred for consultation to be evaluated for an endoscopic dilation or surgical correction of the esophageal pathology.

Barrett's Esophagus

Barrett's esophagus, or columnar-lined esophagus, is a condition in which the normal lining of the esophagus (squamous-lined) changes in response to chronic reflux of stomach contents. This repeated injury to the esophagus may lead to replacement of the normal lining of the esophagus with cells that have the potential to transform into esophageal cancer. Patient's who are diagnosed with Barrett's esophagus should undergo close surveillance with frequent endoscopies and biopsy. St. Luke's now has a new technology (Barrx radio frequency ablation) that allows us to treat the abnormal lining of the esophagus to eliminate the presence of Barrett's mucosa and hopefully reduce the potential of developing esophageal cancer in the future. A consultation with a St. Luke's thoracic surgeon can help determine whether you may be candidate for this innovative treatment.

Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

GERD, commonly known as heartburn, is very common in our society. Almost everyone at some time during their lifetime experiences heartburn or reflux symptoms. Generally, these symptoms are the result of the reflux of stomach fluid, which can contain acid and bile, into the esophagus. The fluid causes irritation to the lining of the esophagus which can typically cause burning-type pain and even damage to the esophagus such as esophagitis (inflammation of the esophagus) or Barrett's esophagus, which is a precancerous condition. Learn when to seek medical attention and the recommended procedure for GERD.

Hiatal Hernia/Paraesophageal Hernia

Hiatal hernias occur where the esophagus meets the stomach just below the diaphragm. Sometimes, the stomach slides into the chest. This is called a paraesophageal hernia. Learn more about these conditions and how a St. Luke's thoracic surgeon can help.

Zenker's Diverticulum

Esophageal diverticula are acquired conditions of the esophagus and occur mostly in adults. Zenker's diverticulum, the most common diverticulum of the esophagus, occurs in the upper esophagus. These are corrected through an incision in the neck or more commonly with an incisionless procedure performed endoscopically through the mouth.

Another type of diverticulum called an epiphrenic diverticulum usually occurs in the lower portion of the esophagus within the chest.

The thoracic surgeons at St. Luke's can successfully treat both of these types of diverticula.


A benign stricture of the esophagus is a narrowing which can led to difficulty swallowing foods or liquids. There are multiple causes for a stricture and the treatment will depend on the cause of the stricture. The St. Luke's thoracic surgeons are able to offer many treatment options for the management of esophageal strictures. These strictures can generally be dilated with special instruments or patients can undergo placement of an esophageal stent that allows the patient to eat normally as the stricture heals.

A consultation with a thoracic surgeon will help determine the best treatment regimen.


Although not a common finding, benign tumors of the esophagus can cause obstruction. The most common type of benign tumor of the esophagus is called a leiomyoma. A leiomyoma has an extremely low malignant potential but can cause persistent symptoms. These generally can be removed with a thoracoscopic approach without the need for removing a portion of the esophagus.

Esophageal duplication cysts are another type of benign esophageal pathology that can be removed thoracoscopically without resection of the esophagus.

Esophageal Cancer

Esophageal cancer is a malignant condition and is a growing problem worldwide.

The incidence of adenocarcinoma of the esophagus has increased at a rate greater than any other solid organ tumor in the body. The other type of esophageal cancer is squamous cell carcinoma.

Learn more about esophageal cancer, including:

  • Multidisciplinary approach to patient care
  • Diagnostic EGD/EUS
  • Endoscopic Treatment of Early Stage Esophageal Cancer
  • Surgical Removal - Esophagectomy
  • Palliative Procedures for Esophageal Cancer
  • Clinical Trials