Background: Reports of esophageal anastomotic complications often involve more gastric than colonic reconstructions and are incomplete because of fragmented followup by physicians unfamiliar with the surgical procedure.
Study design: Three hundred ninety-three consecutive esophagectomy patients had prevalence and risk factors determined for graft ischemia and anastomotic leak; 363 of these patients followed for more than 1 month (median 15 months) had prevalence and risk factors determined for anastomotic stricture.
Results: Conduit ischemia occurred in 36 (9.2%) and anastomotic leak in 43 patients (10.9%). Risk factor for ischemia was comorbid conditions requiring therapy (Odds ratio [OR]: 2.2 [95% CI 1.1-4.3]), and for leak were ischemia (OR: 5.5 [95% CI 2.5-12.1]), neoadjuvant therapy (OR: 2.2 [95% CI 1.1-4.5]), and comorbid conditions (OR: 2.1 [95% CI 1.1-3.9]). A stricture developed in 80 patients (22.0%). Risk factors were ischemia (OR: 4.4 [95% CI 2.0-9.6]), anastomotic leak (OR: 3.8 [95% CI 1.9-7.6]), and increasing preoperative weight (p = 0.022). The prevalence of ischemia was similar after gastric (10.4%) versus colonic (7.4%) reconstruction; leak and stricture were more common (14.3% versus 6.1%, p = 0.013, 31.3% versus 8.7%, p < 0.0001, respectively) and strictures were more severe (11.2% versus 2%, p = 0.001) after gastric pull-up. Patients free of ischemia and leak who developed stricture were more likely to have had a gastric pull-up (25% versus 7%, p < 0.0001). Dilatation was effective treatment in 93% of patients.
Conclusions: After esophagectomy 10% of patients will develop conduit ischemia or an anastomotic leak and 22% will develop anastomotic stricture. Anastomotic leak and strictures are more common and the strictures are more severe after gastric pull-up compared with colon interposition. Dilatation is a safe and effective treatment.