Management of cervical esophageal injury after spinal surgery

Natasha Rueth, Darcy Shaw, Shawn Groth, Sarah Stranberg, Jonathan D'Cunha, Jonathan N Sembrano, Michael A Maddaus, Rafael S Andrade

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Background: Esophageal injury is a rare but catastrophic complication of anterior cervical spine surgery. Cases of esophageal perforation may be discovered intraoperatively, or as late as 10 years after surgery. In the current study we aim to review the principles of care and provide an algorithm that can be employed for successful management of this complex problem. Methods: We performed a retrospective, Institutional Review Board-approved review of esophageal injuries resulting from anterior cervical spine surgery that were managed at our institution between January 1, 2007 and July 31, 2009. We collected demographic information, perioperative data, and final outcomes. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics. Results: We identified 6 patients who met our criteria. All patients presented with esophageal leaks, neck abscesses, and osteomyelitis. Similarly, all had been treated prior to transfer, without resolution of their leak. After debridement, removal of hardware, long-term antibiotic therapy, maximization of nutrition, and supportive care, 80% of patients resumed oral intake (median time 66.5 days). Mortality was 16.7%. Conclusions: Neck exploration with removal of hardware, debridement, and open neck wound management are the basic principles of care. Management is often prolonged and requires multiple procedures; however, with persistence, closure is possible in the majority of patients. Our report serves as a guide for the treatment of this devastating problem.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1128-1133
Number of pages6
JournalAnnals of Thoracic Surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2010


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