Nutcracker esophagus differential diagnosis

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Nutcracker esophagus Microchapters


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Historical Perspective




Differentiating Nutcracker esophagus from other Diseases

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Differential Diagnosis

Nutcracker esophagus must be differentiated from other causes of dysphagia, odynophagia and food regurgitation such as GERD, esophageal adenocarcinoma and esophageal stricture.

Manifestations Diagnostic tools
  • Dysphagia for solids and liquids is the most common feature, being seen in 91 % and 85% of patients respectively[2]
  • Regurgitation of undigested food occurs in 76-91% of patients[2]
  • Cough mainly when lying down in 30%[2]
  • Esophagogastroduodenoscopy findings include a dilated esophagus with residual food fragments, normal mucosa and occasionally candidiasis (due to the prolonged stasis).
  • Barium swallow shows the characteristic bird's beak appearance.
Barium swallow showing bird's beak appearance - By Farnoosh Farrokhi, Michael F. Vaezi. - Idiopathic (primary) achalasia. Orphanet Journal of Rare Diseases 2007, 2:38(, CC BY 2.0,
  • Retrosternal burning chest pain.
  • Cough and hoarseness of voice.
  • May present with complications such as strictures and dysphagia.[3]
  • Upper GI endoscopy shows the complications such as esophagitis and barret esophagus.
  • Esophageal manometry may show decreased tone of the lower esophageal sphincter.
  • 24-hour esophageal pH monitoring may be done to confirm the diagnosis.
Barret's esophagus - By Samir धर्म - taken from patient with permission to place in public domain, Copyrighted free use,
Esophageal carcinoma
  • Dysphagia
  • Odynophagia- fluids and soft foods are usually tolerated, while hard or bulky substances (such as bread or meat) cause much more difficulty[4]
  • Weight loss
  • Pain, often of a burning nature, may be severe and worsened by swallowing, and can be spasmodic in character
  • Nausea and vomiting[4]
  • Upper GI endoscopy and esophageal biopsy the gold standard for the diagnosis of esophageal
Corckscrew esophagus
  • Retrosternal chest pain that presents with or without food intake.[5]
  • The condition is not progressive and not causing complications.[6]
  • Barium swallow shows the characteristic corckscrew appearance of the esophagus.
Corckscrew esophagus - Case courtesy of Radswiki,, rID: 11680
Esophageal stricture
  • Patient may present with the symptoms of the underlying GERD.
  • Dysphagia and odynophagia.[7]
  • Barium esophagography provides information about the site and the diameter of the stricture before the endoscopic intervention.[8]
Peptic stricture - By Samir धर्म - From, Public Domain,
Plummer-Vinson syndrome Common symptoms of Plummer-Vinson syndrome include:[9][10][11]
  • Difficulty swallowing (more for solids)
  • Weakness
  • Pain
  • Burning sensation in mouth
  • Dry tongue
  • Painful cracks in the angles of a dry mouth
  • Pale color of the skin

Less cmmon symptoms

  • Cold intolerance
  • Reduced resistance to infection
  • Altered behavior
  • Craving for for unusual items (such as ice or cold vegetables)
Lab tests are consistent with the diagnosis of iron deficiency anemia.

Findings on an x-ray (barium esophagogram) suggestive of esophageal web/strictures associated with Plummer-Vinson syndrome appear as either:

Plummer-Vinson syndrome (Source: Case courtesy of Dr Hani Salam, <a href=""></a>. From the case <a href="">rID: 14029</a>)


  1. Ferri, Fred (2015). Ferri's clinical advisor 2015 : 5 books in 1. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier/Mosby. ISBN 978-0323083751.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Boeckxstaens GE, Zaninotto G, Richter JE (2013). "Achalasia". Lancet. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(13)60651-0. PMID 23871090.
  3. Badillo R, Francis D (2014). "Diagnosis and treatment of gastroesophageal reflux disease". World J Gastrointest Pharmacol Ther. 5 (3): 105–12. doi:10.4292/wjgpt.v5.i3.105. PMC 4133436. PMID 25133039.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Napier KJ, Scheerer M, Misra S (2014). "Esophageal cancer: A Review of epidemiology, pathogenesis, staging workup and treatment modalities". World J Gastrointest Oncol. 6 (5): 112–20. doi:10.4251/wjgo.v6.i5.112. PMC 4021327. PMID 24834141.
  5. Matsuura H (2017). "Diffuse Esophageal Spasm: Corkscrew Esophagus". Am. J. Med. doi:10.1016/j.amjmed.2017.08.041. PMID 28943381.
  6. Lassen JF, Jensen TM (1992). "[Corkscrew esophagus]". Ugeskr. Laeg. (in Danish). 154 (5): 277–80. PMID 1736462.
  7. Ruigómez A, García Rodríguez LA, Wallander MA, Johansson S, Eklund S (2006). "Esophageal stricture: incidence, treatment patterns, and recurrence rate". Am. J. Gastroenterol. 101 (12): 2685–92. doi:10.1111/j.1572-0241.2006.00828.x. PMID 17227515.
  8. Shami VM (2014). "Endoscopic management of esophageal strictures". Gastroenterol Hepatol (N Y). 10 (6): 389–91. PMC 4080876. PMID 25013392.
  9. López Rodríguez MJ, Robledo Andrés P, Amarilla Jiménez A, Roncero Maíllo M, López Lafuente A, Arroyo Carrera I (2002). "Sideropenic dysphagia in an adolescent". J. Pediatr. Gastroenterol. Nutr. 34 (1): 87–90. PMID 11753173.
  10. Chisholm M (1974). "The association between webs, iron and post-cricoid carcinoma". Postgrad Med J. 50 (582): 215–9. PMC 2495558. PMID 4449772.
  11. Larsson LG, Sandström A, Westling P (1975). "Relationship of Plummer-Vinson disease to cancer of the upper alimentary tract in Sweden". Cancer Res. 35 (11 Pt. 2): 3308–16. PMID 1192404.

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