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Recurrent and congenital tracheoesophageal fistula in adults.

OBJECTIVES: Recurrent congenital tracheoesophageal fistula (TEF) is well documented in infancy but may also present later in life. This study reviews our experience with the clinical presentation, diagnosis and management of 5 recurrent and 2 primary congenital tracheoesophageal fistulas (TEF) in adult patients. There are no literature series of late recurrence of TEF (repaired in childhood and recurring in adulthood) and relatively few reported cases of initial adult presentation of TEF. In this series, we aim to provide the first large series description of late recurrence of congenital TEF following repair in infancy or childhood. We also present management considerations for this unique group of patients.

METHODS: We performed a computer-based search of the adult thoracic surgery departmental operative database at our institution from 2002 to 2014. Patients with iatrogenic TEF or malignant TEF were excluded.

RESULTS: Seven patients are included in our series. Five patients (71%) had recurrent congenital TEF and 2 (29%) had initial diagnosis of congenital TEF. All presented with severe coughing symptoms, and most (86%) had a history of recurrent aspiration pneumonia. Repair technique was dictated by the location of the TEF and the specific tracheoesophageal pathology. Four patients underwent repair via cervical approach with or without a tracheal resection. Three patients with distal recurrence underwent repair via right thoracotomy with partial oesophagectomy for significant tissue compromise and cervical reconstruction. Patients were followed for at least 1 year. All 7 patients experienced full resolution of symptoms. One patient required postoperative placement of a retrievable tracheal stent for tracheomalacia. There were no mortalities.

CONCLUSIONS: Adult presentation of congenital TEF is a rare but recognizable clinical entity. Recurrent TEF in adulthood is a possible late complication of TEF repair performed in childhood that has not previously been described. Adult patients experiencing symptoms of cough and recurrent aspiration pneumonia should be evaluated for congenital TEF. Surgical repair of congenital TEF in the adult is feasible and effective with acceptable morbidity.

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