The esophagus is a hollow muscular tube which connects the throat to the stomach. The esophagus serves as the passageway for food and liquid to travel from the throat into the stomach. The esophagus is made of both striated and smooth muscles, and is between 25 and 30 centimeters long. At the top of the esophagus is the upper esophageal sphincter or cricopharyngeus muscle. This is a ring-like muscle which is normally tensed to prevent food and liquid from traveling “backwards” from the esophagus into the throat. At the bottom of the esophagus is a similar muscle, the lower esophageal sphincter.
The esophagus may be the location of a retained foreign body. For example, if a small child swallows a coin, it often becomes stuck in the esophagus.
Reflux, or the backflow of acidic stomach contents into the esophagus, may cause symptoms of “heartburn” or chest pain.