Written By: Ehsan Jahandarpour

The esophagus (American English) or oesophagus (British English), commonly known as the foodpipe or gullet, is an organ in vertebrates which consists of a fibromuscular tube through which food passes, aided by peristaltic contractions, from the pharynx to the stomach. In humans, the esophagus is usually 18–25 centimeters (cm) long. During swallowing the epiglottis tilts backwards to prevent food from going down the larynx. The esophagus travels behind the trachea and heart, passes through the diaphragm and empties into the cardia of the stomach. The word esophagus which derives from the Greek word oisophagos, which means “to carry to eat.” The wall of the esophagus from the lumen outwards consists of mucosa, sub-mucosa (connective tissue), layers of muscle fibers between layers of fibrous tissue, and an outer layer of connective tissue. The mucosa is a stratified squamous epithelium (multiple layers of cells topped by a layer of flat cells) which contrasts to the single layer of columnar cells of the stomach. The transition between these two type of epithelium is visible as a zig-zag line. Most of the muscle is smooth muscle although striated muscle predominates in its upper third. It has two muscular rings or sphincters in its wall, one at the top and one at the bottom. The lower sphincter helps to prevent reflux of acidic stomach content. The esophagus has a rich blood supply and vascular drainage. Its smooth muscle is innervated by involuntary nerves (sympathetic nerves via the sympathetic trunk and parasympathetic nerves via the vagus nerve) and in addition voluntary nerves (lower motor neurons) are carried in the vagus nerve to innervate its striated muscle. The esophagus may be affected by gastric reflux, cancer, prominent dilated blood vessels called varices that can bleed heavily, tears, constrictions, and disorders of motility. Clinical investigations include X-rays using barium, endoscopy, and CT scans.