Management of intrathoracic and cervical anastomotic leakage after esophagectomy for esophageal cancer: A systematic review

Moniek H. P. Verstegen, Stefan A. W. Bouwense, Frans van Workum, Richard ten Broek, Peter D. Siersema, Maroeska Rovers, Camiel Rosman

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32 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Anastomotic leakage (0-30%) after esophagectomy is a severe complication and is associated with considerable morbidity and mortality. The aim of this study was to determine which treatment for anastomotic leakage after esophagectomy have the best clinical outcome, based on the currently available literature. Methods: A systematic literature search was performed in Medline, Embase, and Web of Science until April 2017. All studies reporting on the specific treatment of cervical or intrathoracic anastomotic leakage following esophagectomy with gastric tube reconstruction for esophageal or cardia cancer were included. The primary outcome parameter was postoperative mortality. Methodological quality was assessed by the Newcastle-Ottawa Quality Assessment Scale. Results: Nineteen retrospective cohort studies including 273 patients were identified. Methodological quality of all studies was poor to moderate. Mortality rates of intrathoracic anastomotic leakages in the treatment groups were as follows: conservative (14%), endoscopic stent (8%), endoscopic drainage (8%), endoscopic vacuum-assisted closure system (0%), and surgery treatment group (50%). Mortality rates of cervical anastomotic leakages in the treatment groups were as follows: conservative (8%), endoscopic stent (29%), and endoscopic dilatation (0%). Discussion: Due to small cohorts, heterogeneity between studies, and lack of data regarding leakage characteristics, no evidence supporting a specific treatment for anastomotic leakage after esophagectomy was found. A severity score based on leakage characteristics instead of treatment given is essential for determining the optimal treatment of anastomotic leakage. In the absence of robust evidence-based treatment guidelines, we suggest customized treatment depending on sequelae of the leak and clinical condition of the patient. PrDepartment of Surgery, Radboudumc, P.O.B. 9101/618 NLactical advices are provided. Trial registration: Registration number PROSPERO: CRD42016032374.
Original languageEnglish
Article number17
JournalWorld journal of emergency surgery
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Anastomotic
  • Cervical
  • Esophagectomy
  • Intrathoracic
  • Leakage
  • Treatment

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