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March 19, 2020

Management of Iatrogenic Cervical Esophageal Perforations: A Narrative Review

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, NYU Langone Health, New York, New York
JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2020;146(5):488-494. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2020.0088

Importance  Esophageal perforations are difficult to diagnose and have a high mortality rate. Cervical esophageal perforations (CEPs) are the second most common anatomic type of esophageal perforations and are most often due to iatrogenic injury. They are often managed more conservatively than thoracic perforations. The current literature on CEPs is mostly observational, with a paucity of prospective controlled studies. In addition, there is scarce literature focusing specifically on iatrogenic CEPs (iCEPs) as an entity of their own.

Observations  The existing studies on esophageal perforations address treatment by anatomic location and by cause, but few focus specifically on iCEPs. The cricopharynx is the most common site for injury in diagnostic endoscopy. The standard treatment is generally conservative management with drainage unless the perforation is greater than 2 cm, the diagnosis is delayed, or the patient shows signs of sepsis, which would prompt surgical intervention, most commonly in the form of primary repair via open or endoscopic approach. An open approach has been the mainstay of therapy; however, use of endoscopic clips, stents, and suturing is increasingly on the rise. Guideline recommendations on the optimal therapeutic approach for iCEPs are lacking. The most consistent recommendation in the literature is immediate and individualized treatment.

Conclusions and Relevance  The management of iCEPs is controversial. There is a need for additional prospective studies comparing treatment options for iCEPs to establish a gold standard treatment and to assess for the expanding role of endoscopic interventions.

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