What Is Tortuous Esophagus?

A tortuous esophagus is the irregular curvature of the esophagus relative to its normal position between the mouth and the stomach, according to doctors at HealthTap. A hiatal hernia is a common cause of a tortuous esophagus.

A tortuous esophagus can also occur due to a misalignment or change of orientation of the esophagus where it joins the stomach at the diaphragm, says Dr. Oelschlager for Gastroenterology & Hepatology. In a normal human being, the esophagus is a straight pipe. Consequently, a tortuous esophagus that causes the pipe to twist, flex and narrow can be very painful, explains HealthTap.

A tortuous esophagus is usually associated with a hiatal hernia but is also prevalent in older patients who do not exhibit a hernia, states HealthTap. Such a hernia occurs from the protrusion of a portion of the stomach into the chest cavity through a hole or weak spot in the diaphragm, and it can also cause gastroesophageal reflux disease, notes HealthTap and MedlinePlus.

A tortuous esophagus can interfere with other surgeries such as a partial fundoplication that usually follows a laparoscopic Heller myotomy, which is a surgical procedure where the esophageal muscle is cut, according to the Division of General Surgery at the University of California, San Francisco.