Background: Esophagectomy for cancer is one of the most complex procedures in visceral surgery. Postoperative complications negatively affect the patient’s overall survival. They are not influenced by the histology type (adenocarcinoma (AC)/squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)), or the surgical approach (open, laparoscopic, or robotic-assisted). Among those dreadful complications are anastomotic leak (AL), esophago-respiratory fistula (ERF), and chylothorax (CT). Methods: In this review, we summarize the methods to avoid these complications, the diagnostic approach, and new therapeutic strategies. Results: In the last 20 years, both centralization of the medical care, and the development of endoscopy and radiology have positively influenced the management of postoperative complications. For the purpose of their prevention, perioperative measures have been applied. The treatment includes conservative, endoscopic, and surgical approaches. Conclusions: Post-esophagectomy complications are common. Prevention measures should be known. Early recognition and adequate treatment of these complications save lives and lead to better outcomes.
An acquired esophago-respiratory fistula represents an abnormal connection between the esophagus and the respiratory system. It is usually caused by malignancy and infection, or it occurs as a complication after surgery or radiation therapy. It can be divided according to its anatomical level into esophago-tracheal fistula, esophago-bronchial fistula, and in the rarest case, esophago-pulmonary fistula (EPF). We present a case of EPF aggravating an anastomotic leak (AL) after the Ivor-Lewis operation for esophageal cancer. The leak was treated with endoscopic vacuum therapy (EVT) using the Eso-Sponge® system (B. Braun Melsungen AG, Melsungen, Germany). In the further course of treatment, an EPF was suspected by a new onset of severe cough after oral fluid intake. The suspicion was confirmed by injecting methylene blue dye into the paraesophageal-extraluminal cavity during endoscopy and attesting to its presence in the respiratory tract by simultaneous bronchoscopy. Furthermore, an oral contrast computed tomography scan showed the presence of contrast in the right lower lobe of the lung. This complication was treated conservatively with EVT and antibiotics. Nutrition was administered through the existing jejunostomy. Both fistulas and the paraesophageal cavity were fully healed, oral intake was maintained, and the patient was discharged. This rare life-threatening complication can be treated conservatively. Its management is challenging, controversial, and lacks a general consensus.
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