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In Pursuit of Health

After Esophagectomy

All the information below can also be found in the VCH booklet: Before and After Esophagectomy Patient and Family Guide.

We review here common questions after esophagectomy, such as:

  • When and what will I be able to eat?

  • What activity can I do at home?

  • When does my J-tube come out?

  • How can I avoid eating problems at home?

  • When should I call my doctor?

When Will I be Able to Eat?

You will be fed through your J-tube until it is safe for you to eat. Around 4–7 days after surgery you will be given a swallow test to see if your incision on you esophagus has healed. If it has, you will start to drink water. Slowly you will be allowed
to drink other clear fluids and progress to an esophageal surgery diet over a few days.
Some changes will have to be made in your eating habits because of the nature of your surgery. For example, you will be eating smaller and more frequent meals, rather than large ones, due to the early fullness you will experience. The dietitian will be in to speak to you about these changes.

What activity can I do at home?

You may find the change from hospital to home to be tiring. Some patients have said this is especially true the first few days. Having too many visitors too soon, and over-doing activity are two things which may make you feel overtired.
It is important to pace yourself at home and not overdo it. Your body will let you know if you are doing too much. For example, if you become short of breath, tired, or begin to sweat during an activity, you are probably doing too much.
A good way to deal with feeling tired is having regular rest periods during the day. Taking short walks outside is a good way to reintroduce activity. You will need help at first, with some of your normal activities such as housework, cooking etc.

When does my J-tube come out?

You will probably go home with your J-tube still in. The nurses will teach you to flush the tube twice per day to keep it open in case you need to use it at home. The surgeon will remove the tube in the office.

How can I avoid eating probems at home?

While in the hospital the dietitian gave you information on changes to your diet and cautions to take with eating. Please refer to this information often until you feel comfortable with managing your diet.

Common problems patients may have after esophagectomy surgery include:

• early satiety (feeling full after a small meal)

• reflux (regurgitation)
• diarrhea
• weight loss 

To prevent or control these diet problems: 

  • avoid lying flat. Sleep with an extra pillow or two. 

  • eat small, frequent meals

  • avoid simple sugars (eg. table sugar, candy), spicy foods, alcohol and smoking

  • remain in an upright position for one hour after meals bend at the knees, not at the waist, to pick up things 

  • eat high calorie and high protein foods 

When should I call my doctor?

  • difficulty in swallowing

  • food sticking in your throat

  • vomiting

  • persistent diarrhea

  • persistent weight loss

  • changes in, or worsening of, incision pain

  • fever 

After Esophagectomy: Services
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