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Discharge Instructions for Esophagectomy

You had a procedure called esophagectomy, which means that part or all of your esophagus was removed. After this type of surgery, it often takes a few months for eating habits to return to normal. Here's what you can do at home to help with your recovery.

Diet Changes

  • Follow the diet your doctor prescribed for you.

  • Choose foods that are soft and moist because they may be easier to digest.

  • Avoid foods that produce gas, such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, corn, dried beans, lentils, onions, and peas.

How to Eat

  • Eat small, frequent meals (6 to 8 per day).

  • Eat your last meal or snack at least 2 to 3 hours before you go to bed.

  • Take small bites, and chew your food well.

  • Sit up straight when you eat. This way, gravity can help food move through your digestive tract.

  • Continue to sit upright for 30 to 60 minutes after you eat.

  • Don’t use a straw, smoke, or chew gum. These activities make you swallow air, which can increase gas.

Drinking Fluids

  • Drink most of your fluids between meals. Limit your fluid with meals to ½ cup (4 ounces).

  • When you eat snacks, limit fluids you drink with them to 1 cup (8 ounces).

Other Home Care

  • Check your incision site daily for 1 week after discharge. Change the dressing according to the directions you were given.

  • Use pain medication as necessary.

  • Don't drive until you are off your pain medication and free of pain. This may take 2 to 4 weeks.

  • Plan frequent rest periods to avoid shortness of breath.

  • Perform deep breathing and controlled coughing exercises. Ask your healthcare provider for instructions.

  • Break the smoking habit:

    • Enroll in a stop-smoking program to increase your chances of success.

    • Ask your doctor about medications or other methods to help you quit.

    • Ask family members to quit smoking as well.

    • Don't allow smoking in your home or around you.


Make a follow-up appointment as directed by our staff.

When to Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor right away if you have any of the following:

  • Fever above 101.5°F or 38.5°C 

  • Signs of infection around the incision (redness, drainage, warmth, pain)

  • Shortness of breath without exertion

  • Trouble swallowing

  • Nausea or vomiting

Note: If you ever have trouble breathing, call 911 (emergency) right away.

Online Medical Reviewer: Kolbus, Karin, RN, DNP, COHN-S
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 3/28/2014
© 2000-2016 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.