Low mortality after treatment for esophageal perforation: a single-center experience

W Brent Keeling, Daniel L Miller, Geoffrey T Lam, Pat Kilgo, Joseph I Miller, Kamal A Mansour, Seth D Force
Annals of Thoracic Surgery 2010, 90 (5): 1669-73; discussion 1673

BACKGROUND: Historically, esophageal perforation has been associated with significant mortality. Improvements in diagnosis, critical care, and surgical and endoscopic techniques may lead to lower mortality rates in the modern era. We reviewed our experience with the management of esophageal perforation to determine whether outcomes have improved.

METHODS: We retrospectively reviewed all cases of esophageal perforation from 1997 through 2008 at our institution. Univariate and propensity-matching analysis were performed.

RESULTS: We reviewed the charts of 147 patients, and 97 met eligibility criteria. There were 45 women, (46.4%); mean age was 60.7 ± 15.6 years. Etiologies included iatrogenic in 50 (51.6%), spontaneous in 23 (23.7%), and idiopathic in 22 (22.7%). Treatment within 24 hours of presentation occurred in 55.2% of patients; 22.7% of patients were septic on presentation. Treatment included surgery in 72 patients (74.2%) and nonoperative management in 25 (25.8%). Forty-one patients (42.3%) underwent primary repair, 5 (6.9%) underwent esophageal resection, 4 (5.6%) underwent exclusion, and 22 (22.7%) underwent drainage or stent placement. Thirty-day mortality rate for the entire cohort was only 8.3% (8 patients). The mortality rate for the primary repair patients was 7.7%, and none of the resection patients died. There was similar in-hospital mortality rate between operative and nonoperative treatment groups (p = 0.96). Propensity-matching analysis showed equal morbidity (p = 0.74) and 30-day mortality (p = 0.35) between operative and nonoperative treatment groups.

CONCLUSIONS: Our study represents a large series of patients treated for esophageal perforation. The results demonstrate that the overall mortality from esophageal perforation can be less than 10%. Primary repair should be considered as first-line treatment when appropriate even in patients who present more than 24 hours after perforation. Nonoperative management, in appropriate patients, can also lead to good success rates and low mortality.

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