Definition of Esophagus

The muscular tube that extends from the back of the throat to the top of the stomach. From 10 to 12 inches long, the esophagus carries ingested food and fluids to the stomach to begin the process of digestion. As the esophagus leaves the throat its muscle tissue is primarily striated (voluntary); as the esophagus enters the stomach its muscle tissue is smooth (involuntary).

Though a person can control the initiation of swallowing, the processes that propel food down the esophagus and into the stomach are involuntary.

Common Conditions

Common Conditions
achalasiabarrett’s esophagus
diverticular diseasedyspepsia
esophageal atresiaesophageal cancer
esophagitisgastroesophageal reflux disorder (gerd)
esophageal spasmesophageal varices

For further discussion of gastrointestinal structure and function, please see the overview section “The Gastrointestinal System.”


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