Objectives: The locally advanced esophageal carcinoma can be complicated by fistulas. According to published data, the incidence rate of malignant esophageal fistulas is about 13%. The range of treatment modalities proposed by different authors varies from palliation to active and, if possible, radical surgical interventions. In the present study, we investigated combined esophagectomies as a radical treatment of the malignant esophageal fistulas.
Methods: Thirty-five patients (aged 28--67) with malignant esophageal fistulas of different localizations were operated over a period from 1990 to 2000. The tumor was located in the upper, middle and lower thoracic esophagus in four, 20 and 11 cases, respectively. The malignant fistula with the mediastinum, pleural cavity, lungs, bronchi and trachea was observed in 21, two, five, four and three cases, respectively. Subtotal esophagectomy and esophagogastroplasty were performed in 18 patients; subtotal esophagectomy with intrapleural coloesophagoplasty was performed in one case; proximal gastric and lower thoracic esophageal resection from the left-side abdominothoracic approach was performed in three cases. Esophagogastric bypass anastomoses were formed in ten patients. Gastrostomy was performed in three patients.
Results: The complication rate was 40% (14 out of 35); the postoperative mortality was 14.3% (five out of 35). In patients after esophageal resection, the mortality rate was 13.6% (three out of 22). With a median survival of 13 months (range, 3--31), the 2-year survival rate was 21% after combined esophagectomies.
Conclusions: The goal of surgery for esophageal cancer with various fistulas is to completely resect the primary tumor and involved adjacent structures with clear surgical margins and extended two-field lymphadenectomy. The importance of performing a complete resection is stressed by the absence of 1-year survivors among patients who underwent bypass surgery or gastrostomy. We consider that en-bloc combined resection of esophageal cancer complicated by fistula can be done with a low mortality.