• Esophageal Variceal Injection

    (Sclerotherapy for Esophageal Varices; Endoscopic Sclerotherapy)


    Esophageal varices are abnormal blood vessels that develop in the esophagus. They have abnormally thin walls and the blood pressure within them is very high. This combination makes esophageal varices dangerous, because they can burst and cause life-threatening bleeding.
    Esophageal variceal injection is a procedure to either stop active bleeding or prevent future bleeding. During the procedure, medication is injected into or alongside esophageal varices. When injecting into the vein, the medication causes blood clots to form, blocking the vein from bleeding. When injected alongside the vein, the swelling in the area compresses the vein, preventing it from bleeding.
    The procedure is also known as sclerotherapy.

    Reasons for Procedure

    Esophageal varices can be life-threatening. Esophageal variceal injection is a procedure that can be done to stop active bleeding from esophageal varices and prevent rebleeding.

    Possible Complications

    Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
    • Painful or difficult swallowing
    • Esophageal narrowing
    • Bleeding
    • Esophageal damage
    • Infection
    • Lung injury
    Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:

    What to Expect

    Prior to Procedure

    • Do not eat for 8-12 hours before the procedure.
    • If you have diabetes , discuss your medications with your doctor.
    • Arrange for transportation after the procedure. You should not drive for 24 hours after the procedure.
    • Talk to your doctor about your medications. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to one week before the procedure.


    • Your throat may be sprayed with a medication to make it numb.
    • You will be given IV medications to help you relax.
    • If you have active bleeding, it may be necessary to use general anesthesia . You will be asleep during the procedure.

    Description of the Procedure

    For this procedure, you will lie on your left side. A mouthpiece will be placed to help keep your mouth open. An assistant will be in the room to monitor your breathing and heart beat. You may also be given oxygen through your nose. A suction tube will be used to clear the saliva and other fluids from your mouth.
    A lubricated endoscope will be placed into your mouth. It will be passed down your throat and into your esophagus. The scope will have a small light and a camera. Images will display on a video monitor. Air will be passed through the scope to help your doctor see your esophagus. The enlarged vein will be located. If needed, the endoscope can be passed all the way down into the stomach and upper intestines.
    Upper GI Endoscopy
    Endoscope in stomach
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
    When near the varices, a flexible needle will be passed through the scope. The needle will be used to inject medication into the varices. If needed, your doctor may do many injections during one procedure.
    Instruments can also be passed through the scope to apply rubber band-like devices. The rubber band ties off the varices. This will prevent future bleeding. This is called band ligation.

    How Long Will It Take?

    About 30-60 minutes

    How Much Will It Hurt?

    During the procedure, you may feel discomfort in your throat. After the procedure, your throat may be sore for a few days. In addition, you may feel bloated and need to belch. It may also be painful to swallow for a couple of days after the procedure.

    Post-procedure Care

    Unless otherwise instructed, resume your normal diet and medications. Rest for the remainder of the day. Do not drive for at least 24 hours after the procedure.
    After this procedure, you will have a smaller chance of bleeding from your esophageal varices. However, it is still possible to bleed from varices that have been injected.
    Follow-up as directed by your doctor. More than one procedure may be required.
    After this procedure, you will have a smaller chance of bleeding from your esophageal varices. However, it is still possible to bleed from varices that have been injected.
    Follow-up as directed by your doctor. More than one procedure may be required.

    Call Your Doctor

    It is important to monitor your recovery. Alert your doctor to any problems. If any of the following occur, call your doctor:
    • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
    • Bleeding from the mouth
    • Increasing pain
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Bloody vomit
    • Difficulty swallowing
    • Cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain
    • Lightheadedness
    • Bloody or dark black stools
    • Severe abdominal pain
    If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.


    Gastro—American Gastroenterological Association http://www.gastro.org

    The American College of Gastroenterology http://patients.gi.org


    Canadian Association of Gastroenterology http://cag-acg.org

    Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca


    Berry PA, Wendon JA. The management of severe alcoholic liver disease and variceal bleeding in the intensive care unit. Curr Opin Crit Care. 2006;12:171-177.

    Garcia-Tsao G, Sanyal AJ. Prevention and management of gastroesophageal varicies and variceal hemorrhage in cirrhosis. Am J Gastroenterol. 2007;102(9):2086-2102.

    Gastroesophageal varices. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated May 13, 2013. Accessed July 12, 2013.

    Park WG, Yeh RW. Injection therapies for variceal bleeding disorders of the GI tract. Gastrointest Endosc. 2008;67(2):313-323.

    Technology Assessment Committee, Croffie J, et al. Sclerosing agents for use in GI endoscopy. Gastrointest Endosc. 2007;66(1):1-6.

    Revision Information

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