Introduction: Esophageal cancer is an aggressive disease with a strong tendency to infiltrate into surrounding structures. The aim of the present study is to determine the additional value of bronchoscopy for detecting invasion of the tracheobronchial tree after endoscopic ultrasonography (EUS) in the preoperative assessment of patients with esophageal cancer at or above the carina.
Materials and methods: Between January 1997 and December 2006, 104 patients were analyzed for histologically proven esophageal cancer at or above the carina. All patients underwent both EUS and bronchoscopy (with biopsy on indication) in the preoperative assessment of local resectability.
Results and discussion: After extensive diagnostic workup, 58 of 104 patients (56%) were eligible for potentially curative esophagectomy; nine of these 58 patients (9/58, 15%) appeared to be incurable peroperatively because of ingrowth in the tracheobronchial tree (five patients), ingrowth in other vital structures (two patients) or distant metastases (two patients). Of the 46 non-operable patients, local irresectability (T-stage 4) was identified in 26 patients (26/46, 57%) due to invasion of vital structures on EUS: invasion of the aorta in six patients, invasion of the lung in 11 patients; in 12 patients invasion of the tracheobronchial tree was described, which was confirmed by bronchoscopy in only five patients. No patients with T4 were identified by bronchoscopy alone.
Conclusion: For patients with esophageal tumors at or above the carina, no additional value of bronchoscopy (with biopsy on indication) to exclude invasion of the tracheobronchial tree was seen after EUS in a specialized centre. Although based on relatively small numbers, we conclude that bronchoscopy is not indicated if no invasion of the airways is identified on EUS.