Treatment of intrathoracic esophageal anastomotic leaks by means of endoscopic stent implantation

Michael Schweigert, Attila Dubecz, Rudolf J Stadlhuber, Herbert Muschweck, Hubert J Stein
Interactive Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery 2011, 12 (2): 147-51
Intrathoracic anastomotic leakage in patients with esophagectomy is associated with high morbidity and mortality. Until recently surgical reexploration was the preferred way of dealing with this life-threatening complication. But mortality remained significant. After the first successful reports we adopted endoscopic stent implantation as a primary treatment option. The aim of this study was to investigate the feasibility and the results of endoscopic stent implantation. Between January 2004 and December 2009, 167 patients underwent an esophageal resection. Surgery was mainly the result of esophageal cancer. An intrathoracic esophageal anastomotic leak was endoscopically verified in 17 patients. Twelve patients received an implantation of a self-expanding stent as a primary treatment. An endoscopic stent placement was accomplished in all 12 patients. In nine patients a definitive closure of the leak was achieved and the stent could subsequently be removed. Two patients died due to severe sepsis in spite of sufficient stent placement. Because of early recurrence of very malign small cell cancer the stent remained in situ in one patient. In conclusion, stent implantation for intrathoracic esophageal anastomotic leaks is feasible and compares favorable with the results of surgical reexploration. It is an easily available minimally-invasive procedure which may reduce leak-related mortality and morbidity.

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