Salvage oesophagectomy after local failure of definitive chemoradiotherapy

Br J Surg. 2007 Sep;94(9):1059-66. doi: 10.1002/bjs.5865.


Background: Definitive chemoradiotherapy (CRT) is one treatment option for locally advanced oesophageal carcinoma. CRT typically consists of high-dose (50-66 Gy) external beam radiotherapy concurrent with 5-fluorouracil and cisplatin. When definitive CRT fails to achieve local control, salvage oesophagectomy is frequently the only treatment available that can offer a chance of long-term survival.

Methods: Online databases were searched for publications relating to salvage oesophagectomy and definitive CRT. Nine series containing a total of 105 patients were reviewed. Demographics, indications for surgery, type of resection, complications and outcome data were extracted.

Results: Each centre performed one to three salvage resections per year comprising 1.7-4.1 per cent of the oesophagectomy workload. The overall anastomotic leak rate was 17.1 per cent. The in-hospital mortality rate was 11.4 per cent. Five-year survival rates of 25-35 per cent were achieved. Prognostic factors for increased survival were R0 resection (P = 0.006) and longer interval between CRT and recurrence (P = 0.002).

Conclusion: Salvage resection after CRT is feasible for selected patients but is a formidable undertaking. Restaging investigations after CRT for potentially resectable tumours in fit candidates should include endoscopy and positron emission tomography-computed tomography. Salvage oesophagectomy is carried out with the goal of cure and it should be attempted only if an R0 resection is technically possible.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use*
  • Cisplatin / administration & dosage
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / mortality
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / therapy
  • Esophagectomy*
  • Fluorouracil / administration & dosage
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / surgery*
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology
  • Salvage Therapy / methods*
  • Survival Rate
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Cisplatin
  • Fluorouracil