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Benign lesions of the esophagus

Daniel Wild, MD
Moises Guelrud, MD
Section Editor
John R Saltzman, MD, FACP, FACG, FASGE, AGAF
Deputy Editor
Anne C Travis, MD, MSc, FACG, AGAF


A variety of benign esophageal lesions are encountered during endoscopic or radiologic evaluation of the esophagus. Many are uncommon, cause no symptoms, and have no malignant potential. Nevertheless, they can pose a challenge in establishing an accurate diagnosis and thereby formulating a management plan. Benign esophageal lesions can be classified as raised, flat, or cystic.

This topic will review many of the benign lesions that may be found in the esophagus. Esophageal strictures, Barrett's esophagus, and esophageal cancer are discussed elsewhere. (See "Management of benign esophageal strictures" and "Barrett's esophagus: Epidemiology, clinical manifestations, and diagnosis" and "Epidemiology, pathobiology, and clinical manifestations of esophageal cancer" and "Diagnosis and staging of esophageal cancer".)


Gastrointestinal stromal tumors, leiomyomas, and leiomyosarcomas — Gastrointestinal stromal tumors, leiomyomas, and leiomyosarcomas are described separately. (See "Epidemiology, classification, clinical presentation, prognostic features, and diagnostic work-up of gastrointestinal mesenchymal neoplasms including GIST".)

Schwannomas — Schwannomas are rare, benign tumors that arise from perineural elements of the Schwann cell in the peripheral nerves [1]. They are characterized by peripheral lymphoid cuffing, benign nuclear atypia, and spindle-shaped cells. Symptomatic esophageal schwannomas most often present with dysphagia, but dyspnea has been documented in tumors compressing the trachea. While the majority of the tumors are benign, malignant schwannomas have been described [2]. Small benign tumors may be removed by surgical enucleation [1]. Large symptomatic tumors require surgical resection [3].

Lymphangiomas — Lymphangiomas are benign lesions that are believed to result from malformations of sequestered lymphatic tissue. They are most commonly found on the skin, but have been described everywhere in the body except the brain. There are fewer than 15 reported cases of esophageal lymphangiomas, almost all which of were diagnosed in children younger than two [4].


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Literature review current through: Sep 2016. | This topic last updated: Aug 5, 2015.
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