Background: Dysphagia following esophagectomy with cervical esophagogastric anastomosis is common and often can be attributed to anastomotic stricture. The prevalence, risk factors, symptomatic and endoscopic severity, and response to dilation of such strictures, however, are poorly defined.
Methods: In the present study the population consisted of 42 patients undergoing esophagectomy with gastric pull-up and cervical anastomosis. Any complaint of postoperative dysphagia was investigated with upper endoscopy. Patients undergoing endoscopy were entered into a prospective randomized trial of graduated balloon versus bougie-over-a-guidewire dilation that will be part of a future report. Dysphagia was assigned a standardized severity score, and stricture diameter pre-dilation was classified as minimal (>12 mm), mild (9-12 mm), moderate (5-8 mm), or severe (<5 mm). Outcome measures included the incidence, time to first dilation, symptomatic and endoscopic severity of anastomotic strictures, number of dilations, and influence of co-morbidities and anastomotic technique on stricture occurrence.
Results: Twenty-seven of 41 (66%) surviving patients underwent endoscopy and dilation. Median time to presentation was 2.4 months (min, 27 days; max, 11 months). Most patients (63%) with stricture complained of dysphagia with every meal. The majority (93%) of strictures were mild to moderate (5-12 mm), and there was no correlation between dysphagia frequency and stricture size. Tolerance of an unrestricted diet decreased with increasing stricture severity. In all, 98 dilation sessions were performed without complication. A higher stricture rate was noted following handsewn anastomoses as compared to combined stapled and handsewn anastomoses (85.7% versus 55.5%; p = 0.044).
Conclusions: Most patients with symptomatic anastomotic strictures following esophagectomy with cervical esophagogastrostomy present within the first few months following surgery. Half of such strictures are minimal to mild as endoscopically assessed. Dilation is safe, and most patients experience symptomatic relief after only a few dilation sessions. A combined handsewn and stapled anastomosis may decrease the risk of stricture formation relative to a two-layer handsewn technique.