Spiraling Esophagus Blocks Woman From Eating

A spiraling esophagus, also called a nutcracker esophagus or a corkscrew esophagus, has been described in a paper released today in the New England Journal of Medicine by two doctors, Luc Biedermann and Oliver Götze. If looking at this condition doesn’t make you lose a couple of pounds today, I’d be surprised. Yikes.

The doctors observed the extremely rare condition in an 87-year-old unnamed Swiss woman. She experienced unexplained cramps after eating and, as a result, had already lost 11 pounds.

Beidermann and Götze performed an endoscopy, a somewhat controversial but very common technique to find out what was going on. It turned out that her esophagus somehow takes on the shape of a spiral when she swallows her food, making it difficult for her to eat.

An endoscope is pretty much a tiny medical camera attached to a tube. An upper endoscopy is used to examine the esophagus in particular. The procedure has sometimes been criticized for not really providing much information about what’s going wrong in a lot of cases, but it sure led to a wild discovery this time.

It’s the second case of the rare condition reported in the medical literature, but Live Science talked to Dr. Michael Vaezi at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Tennessee who said that, as a specialist in disorders of the esophagus, he’s seen the so-called corkscrew esophagus many times.

I’m not sure I needed to know that, did you?

There’s a video of the so-called nutcracker esophagus at work on the New England Journal of Medicine website.

But be warned. I didn’t feel much like eating my breakfast after I viewed that one.

And there’s no cure, so that’s not good either.

Ouch. Whatever else we have going on in our lives, let’s agree we can all be grateful that we don’t have a spiraling esophagus.

spiraling esophagus

[nutcracker esophagus photo and scan by Biedermann and Götze via The England Journal of Medicine

[top photo by Sebastian Kaulitzki via Shutterstock]