Esophagectomy for esophageal disruption

M B Orringer, M C Stirling
Annals of Thoracic Surgery 1990, 49 (1): 35-42; discussion 42-3
When esophageal disruption occurs in the presence of preexisting esophageal disease or is associated with sepsis or fluid and electrolyte imbalance, aggressive and definitive therapy often provides the only chance for patient salvage. Twenty-four adults (average age, 59 years) with intrathoracic esophageal perforations underwent esophagectomy: 15, transhiatal esophagectomy without thoracotomy; and 9, transthoracic esophagectomy. Restoration of alimentary continuity with an immediate cervical esophagogastric anastomosis was carried out in 13 patients. Eleven underwent a cervical or anterior thoracic esophagostomy, and 10 of them had a subsequent colonic (7) or gastric (3) interposition from 4 to 32 weeks (average time, 8.6 weeks) later. The perforations were due to esophageal instrumentation (9 patients), acute caustic ingestion (2), emesis (2), intrathoracic esophagogastric anastomotic disruption (2), and other causes (9). Preexisting esophageal disease in 20 patients included chronic strictures (10 patients), reflux esophagitis (3), esophageal cancer (3), achalasia (2), diffuse spasm (2), and monilial esophagitis (1 patient). Ten patients were operated on within 12 hours after the injury; 3, within 12 to 24 hours; and 11, within three to 45 days (average interval, 6.6 days). There were three hospital deaths (13%). Nineteen of the 21 survivors were able to swallow comfortably until the time of death or latest follow-up. Aggressive diagnosis and aggressive treatment of life-threatening esophageal perforations are advocated. Conservative procedures (repair, diversion, or drainage) for a perforation with preexisting esophageal disease often inflict more morbidity than esophageal resection, which eliminates the perforation, the source of sepsis, and the underlying esophageal disease. The decision to restore alimentary continuity in a single stage must be individualized.

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