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J Emerg Med. 2018 May;54(5):678-680. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2018.01.024. Epub 2018 Mar 5.

Oral Nitroglycerin Solution May Be Effective for Esophageal Food Impaction.

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Department of Emergency Medicine, Regions Hospital, Saint Paul, Minnesota.



Esophageal food impaction is a common illness presenting to emergency departments (ED), and is frequently resistant to pharmacologic therapy. Several medications have been promoted for this indication, but so far have not proven effective. Endoscopic removal is frequently required to resolve the impaction, resulting in risks from anesthesia and the physical procedure, and in prolonged hospital stay for recovery. Oral nitroglycerin solution was recently used in two such cases and may represent a new therapeutic option.


A 49-year-old man presented to an ED with dysphagia 30 min after eating steak. He was given 0.4 mg nitroglycerin dissolved in 10 mL tap water orally, and obtained complete relief of symptoms within 2 min. A 43-year-old man with eosinophilic esophagitis and two prior food impaction episodes presented to a community ED with dysphagia and epigastric discomfort 110 min after eating steak. Five hours after symptom onset and after failure of intravenous glucagon, he was given 0.4 mg nitroglycerin sublingually, which resulted in headache but no relief in dysphagia. Twenty-nine minutes later he received 0.4 mg nitroglycerin solution, as above, with symptom resolution within 2 min. WHY SHOULD AN EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN BE AWARE OF THIS?: The cases presented above demonstrate close temporal relationships between administration of oral nitroglycerin solution and symptom relief. Oral nitroglycerin solution for esophageal food impaction seemed effective in these cases, but further research on this therapeutic option is warranted.


dysphagia; esophagus; food; impaction; nitroglycerin

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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