Imagine trying to pass a grape through a drinking straw. Chances are that the fruit will be too large to fit through the straw’s small opening. The same thing happens when a horse develops esophageal stricture, when a ring of fibrotic tissue reduces the esophagus’ diameter, making it difficult for a horse to ingest food properly.

In the past, treatment options were limited to invasive surgical techniques. But a team of researchers in the United Kingdom recently evaluated a new treatment with positive results.

“Most people do not feel treatment is available, but it is,” said Jamie Prutton, BSc(Hons), BVSc, Dipl. ACVIM, MRCVS, of the Liphook Equine Hospital in the United Kingdom. “There are therapeutic options now.”

In many cases esophageal rings follow a choke episode. The longer the choke continues, the greater the risk of a stricture. Therefore, immediate veterinary care is needed.

Avoiding surgery is preferable, Prutton said, as surgery carries the risk of wound breakdown and lasting damage to the esophagus. “By avoiding surgery you reduce the risk of incision breakdown and ongoing problems with the esophagus,” he explained.

Prutton and colleagues believed an endoscopic balloon dilation could be a safer alternative. “The procedure does not require anesthesia and is the least invasive technique available,” he added.

Balloon dilation, performed under standing sedation, breaks down the fibrotic ring, thereby increasing the diameter of the esophagus and returning the horse to normal. In a recent study, Prutton and his colleagues found strong survival rates for horse