Trans-hiatal esophagectomy - discharge; Trans-thoracic esophagectomy - discharge; Minimally invasive esophagectomy - discharge; En bloc esophagectomy - discharge; Removal of the esophagus - discharge
When You Were in the Hospital
Your esophagus is the tube that moves food from your throat to your stomach. You had surgery to remove part, or all, of your esophagus. The remaining part of your esophagus and your stomach were rejoined.
If you had surgery that used a laparoscope, several small incisions (cuts) were made in your belly or chest. If you had open surgery, larger cuts were made on your belly or chest.
What to Expect at Home
You will probably have a feeding tube for 1 to 2 months after surgery. This will help you get enough calories to help you gain weight. You will also be on a special diet when you first get home.
Your stools may be looser and you may have bowel movements more often than before your surgery.
Do not lift anything heavier than about 3 pounds for:
2 weeks after laparoscopic surgery
6 to 8 weeks after open surgery
You may walk 2 or 3 times a day, go up or down stairs, or ride in a car. You will need time to rest after being active. If it hurts when you do something, stop doing that activity. If you have large incisions, press a pillow over them when you cough or sneeze.
Make sure your home is safe as you are recovering. For example, remove throw rugs to prevent tripping and falling. In the bathroom, install safety bars to help you get in and out of the tub or shower.
Your doctor will give you a prescription for pain medicines. Get it filled on your way home from the hospital so you have it when you need it. Take your pain medicine when you start having pain. Waiting too long to take it will allow your pain to get worse than it should.
You will be using a feeding tube after you go home. You will likely use it only at nighttime. The feeding tube will not interfere with your normal daytime activities. Once the incisions are healed, you will start having clear liquids, and then your diet will slowly progress. Follow your health care provider's instructions on diet and eating.
Follow instructions for doing deep-breathing exercises after you get home.
If you are a smoker and are having trouble quitting, talk with your doctor about medicines that you can help you quit smoking. Joining a local stop-smoking program can help, too.
You may have some skin soreness around your feeding tube. Follow instructions on how to take care of the tube and the surrounding skin.
Change your dressings (bandages) every day until your surgeon says you no longer need to keep your incisions bandaged. Wash the wound area with mild soap and water and pat dry.
You may remove the wound dressings and take a shower if sutures (stitches), staples, or glue were used to close your skin. Do not try to wash off the thin strips of tape or glue. They will come off on their own in about a week.
Do not soak in a bathtub, hot tub, or swimming pool until your doctor tells you it is okay.
After surgery, you will need close follow-up:
You will see your surgeon 2 or 3 weeks after getting home. Your surgeon will check your wounds and see how you are doing with your diet.
You will have an x-ray to make sure the new connection between your esophagus and stomach is okay.
You will meet with a dietitian to go over your tube feedings and your diet.
You will see your oncologist, the doctor who treats your cancer.
When to Call the Doctor
Call your doctor or nurse if:
Your temperature is above 101°F (38.3°C).
Your incisions are bleeding, red, warm to the touch, or have a thick, yellow, green, or milky drainage.
Your pain medicines do not help ease your pain.
It is hard to breathe.
You have a cough that does not go away.
You cannot drink or eat.
Your skin or the white part of your eyes turns yellow.
Your stools are loose or you're having diarrhea.
You are vomiting after eating.
You feel a burning sensation in your throat when you sleep or lay down.
Maish M. Esophagus. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 43.
Matthew M. Cooper, MD, FACS, Medical Director, Cardiovascular Surgery, HealthEast Care System, St. Paul, MN. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.