Anastomotic leaks after esophagectomy for esophageal cancer: a comparison of thoracic and cervical anastomoses.
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BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Esophagogastric anastomotic leaks remain a significant problem after esophagectomy for esophageal cancer. Many investigators have reported that leaks are more frequent after cervical, as opposed to thoracic, esophagogastric anastomoses. We conducted a retrospective review to assess the effect of anastomotic location (thoracic or cervical) on anastomotic leak incidence and severity. METHODS: Seventy-four consecutive patients with esophageal cancer underwent esophagectomy and esophagogastric anastomoses at our institution over a four-year period. Their charts were reviewed retrospectively and data was collected on age, gender, histology, stage, resection margin status, adjuvant therapy, cancer survival, anastomotic location, anastomotic leaks, and operative mortality. RESULTS: Cervical anastomoses were done in 19 patients and thoracic anastomoses were done in the other 55 patients. The two groups were similar with respect to age, gender, histology, stage, adjuvant therapy, and overall survival. Operative mortality for the entire group of 74 patients was 4% (3 patients). Resection margins were positive for residual tumor in 2 of 19 (11%) patients with cervical anastomoses and 9 of 55 (16%) patients with thoracic anastomoses (p=0.42). Leaks complicated 1 of 19 (5%) cervical and 9 of 55 (16%) thoracic esophagogastric anastomoses (p=0.21). Positive resection margins and anastomotic leaks were not significantly related (p=0.54). One of 9 (11%) leaks in the thoracic group proved fatal. CONCLUSIONS: In our experience cervical esophagogastric anastomoses do not have a higher incidence of leaks than thoracic anastomoses.