Ingestion of caustic substances like alkali, acid, and bleaches that call for esophageal surgery is relatively rare, and the study of dealing with postsurgery complications even rarer, but a team of surgeons from a large public referral hospital in Paris has collected enough cases over the first years of this century to report that a form of revision surgery in these cases can yield good outcomes with acceptable morbidity, according to a study in the Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery ( 2016;152:1378-85 ).

Thibault Voron, MD, and coauthors at Hôpitaux Saint-Louis and the University of Paris performed revision cervicosternolaparotomy (CSLap) on 55 patients from 1999 to 2015. Two patients (4%) died and the severe morbidity rate was 27%, but the long-term functional success rate was 85%. “Of note, these figures compare favorably with results of primary esophageal reconstruction for caustic injuries in the literature,” Dr. Voron and colleagues said. Overall the study authors performed revision surgery on 100 patients, with the remaining 45 undergoing repair through a limited approach. There were no significant differences in characteristics between the two groups.

Primary esophageal reconstruction for caustic injuries can usually be done at referral centers with good results, but up to half of these patients can have late complications, consisting mostly of strictures and redundancy that can cause loss of function, Dr. Voron and coauthors said. Published series have reported revision surgery in 15%-38% of patients ( Dis Esophagus. 2008;21:E1-5 ; Dis Esophagus. 1999;12:7-9 ), but revision surgery itself is difficult to accomplish.

CSLap involves a large operative field from the jaw to the pubis. It starts with a comprehensive neck exploration through the previous cervical incision or with a median laparotomy to rule out a limited-approach repair. CSLap was undertaken when the graft was too short for a tension-free anastomosis. After the upper part of the graft was dissected from the thoracic inlet, the abdomen was opened for dissection of the abdominal part of the transplant. All scar tissues and strictures were excised after the transplant release, and a new anastomosis was constructed in healthy tissues. In cases involving life-threatening complications, patient survival prevailed over graft preservation and reconstruction of digestive continuity. The operations took up to 10 hours, with 8 hours, 20 minutes the median.

Dr. Voron and coauthors identified two distinct indications for CSLap: graft strictures in 43 (78%) of patients to rescue the primary conduit and reconstruct the cervical anastomosis and a need to access the retrosternal space to treat graft-related complications. “Graft lengthening was definitely not the issue in this situation,” Dr. Voron and colleagues said of the latter indication.

Four patients had emergency revision CSLap for spontaneous graft perforation and complications related to caustic reingestion. None died and one patient had preservation of the primary conduit. “Retrosternal grafts can be quickly removed by blunt dissection in life-threatening circumstances; however, if reasonable chances to recover the transplant exist, CSLap exploration can be justified,” Dr. Voron and coauthors said.

CSLap offers a few advantages in these situations: Transplant release provides significant lengthening of the graft that enables preservation of the primary conduit and redo of the cervical anastomosis in most patients, and it allows direct access to the retrosternal space if needed, Dr. Voron and coauthors said.

Dr. Voron and coauthors had no financial relationships to disclose.


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