During emergency surgery patients have not properly fasted so they run the risk of aspirating harmful stomach contents into the lungs, causing inflammation, pneumonia or even death. To prevent aspiration, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh developed Esophocclude, which is a self-expanding stent that temporarily blocks the esophagus until tracheal intubation – placement of a breathing tube – can occur. Unlike current solutions, such as the nasogastric tube insertion or gastric emptying drugs and devices, Esophocclude does not cause nausea or vomiting.

Technology Description

Esophocclude is an encapsulated self-expanding stent that resembles a pill attached to a flexible guidewire. It is intended to be swallowed by patients prior to sedation, at which point the stent would expand and prevent inadvertent flow of gastric juices into the lungs until tracheal intubation can occur. Esophocclude has been tested in vitro with a custom-built apparatus that mimics the musculature of the esophagus and measures leakage under extreme compression and expansion.


  • Quickly and easily swallowed
  • Does not induce nausea or vomiting
  • Unlike pharmacological solutions that simply neutralize gastric juices, Esophocclude fully blocks aspiration


  • Emergency surgery (e.g., trauma, appendicitis, sudden worsening of heart or lung disease, or unplanned cesarean section)
  • Additional aspiration protection for high risk groups (e.g., obesity, GERD, diabetes)

IP Status

Provisional patent filed. Conversion to a PCT application is in progress.

Stage of Development

The Esophocclude is a working prototype that has been tested in vitro. Current focus is on development of an optimized prototype to use in animal studies.

Notable Mentions

  • Pitt 1st Gear Program, 2015 ($3,000)
  • Pitt Center for Medical Innovation Grant (2016, $20,000 & 2017, $20,000)
  • UPMC Department of Anesthesiology Seed Grant Funding, 2017 ($8,000)
  • Recognized as a novel innovation in UPMC Magazine, 2017
  • Invitation for present at 11th 3 Rivers Venture Fair- Pittsburgh, 2017