Date Published

December 3, 2014

Updated For

ALS PCS Version ALS PCS Version 5.2


Question: Can an obstruction of the esophagus cause an obstruction of the airway?


 Interesting question. If the obstruction is distal to the glottic opening and completely obstructs the esophagus, the danger would be that saliva and secretions can build up and then this can increase the risk of aspiration.

Alternatively, if a foreign body lodges in the pharynx right at the junction of the esophagus and the trachea then yes, in theory this can lead to an airway obstruction. If, however youre asking whether an obstruction in the esophagus can cause enough pressure on the adjacent trachea to case occlusion of the trachea, then the answer is likely no. The trachea is surrounded by cartilaginous rings that would prevent its closure due to pressure from the esophagus. One exception to this would be in young children where the trachea is not as rigid and is vulnerable to extrinsic compression so be wary of the foreign body in paediatrics: this is why foreign bodies are always on the differential for stridor!

Perhaps reviewing the anatomy with some diagrams readily available on-line may assist with defining the anatomy we are trying to describe.



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