Esophageal food impaction

Last revised by Henry Knipe on 8 Sep 2022

Esophageal food impaction (or steakhouse syndrome) refers to a food bolus acutely obstructing the esophagus.

Clinical presentation

The main symptom is usually acute dysphagia.

Radiographic features

Plain radiograph

Depending on the composition of the ingested content, the bolus may be visible on plain radiography.


Small amounts of water-soluble isotonic contrast can be administered with fluoroscopic screening to evaluate the location of the bolus.


CT may be necessary if there is concern of perforation.

Treatment and prognosis

Treatments that are less invasive than endoscopy include effervescent crystals, carbonated drinks, glucagon, and muscle relaxants.

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