Comparison between esophagography and chest computed tomography for evaluation of leaks after esophagectomy and gastric pull-through

Joshua E Lantos, Marc S Levine, Stephen E Rubesin, Charles T Lau, Drew A Torigian
Journal of Thoracic Imaging 2013, 28 (2): 121-8

PURPOSE: To assess the diagnostic performance of esophagography and chest computed tomography (CT) for detecting leaks after esophagectomy and gastric pull-through.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Our database revealed 29 patients who had undergone esophagography and chest CT after esophagectomy. The sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value (PPV), and negative predictive value (NPV) for postoperative leaks were determined for esophagography and CT, separately and combined, on the basis of a retrospective image review. Patients were also stratified for esophagograms with water-soluble contrast alone versus water-soluble contrast and high-density barium and for CT with and without oral contrast. Our findings were retrospectively compared with those reported at initial image interpretation.

RESULTS: Clinically relevant leaks were present in 14 (48%) of 29 patients after esophagectomy. Esophagography had a sensitivity of 79%, specificity of 73%, PPV of 73%, and NPV of 79% for detecting leaks, whereas CT had a sensitivity of 86%, specificity of 33%, PPV of 55%, and NPV of 71% and esophagography and CT combined had a sensitivity of 100%, specificity of 27%, PPV of 56%, and NPV of 100%. The sensitivity of esophagography increased with high-density barium, whereas the sensitivity of CT was the same with and without oral contrast agent. Finally, esophagography and CT were seen to have a higher sensitivity and lower specificity on retrospective review compared with the results reported at initial image interpretation.

CONCLUSIONS: Esophagography had a slightly lower sensitivity and substantially higher specificity compared with CT for detecting leaks after esophagectomy, whereas esophagography and CT combined had a sensitivity of 100% for detecting leaks. Therefore, postoperative leaks can be excluded with confidence after esophagectomy when both tests are negative.

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