Management of acquired nonmalignant tracheoesophageal fistula

Ann Thorac Surg. 1991 Oct;52(4):759-65. doi: 10.1016/0003-4975(91)91207-c.


Acquired, nonmalignant tracheoesophageal fistula is an uncommon and difficult problem to manage. The most common cause is a complication of endotracheal or tracheostomy tubes. Most are diagnosed while patients still require mechanical ventilation. We use a conservative approach until patients are weaned from ventilation. A tracheostomy tube is placed so that the balloon rests below the fistula, if possible, to prevent contamination of the tracheobronchial tree. A gastrostomy tube is placed for drainage and a separate jejunostomy tube for nutrition. Single-stage repair is done after the patient is weaned from mechanical ventilation. Esophageal diversion is rarely required. We have performed 41 operations on 38 patients. Simple division and closure of the fistula was done in 9 patients and tracheal resection and reconstruction in the remainder. The esophageal defect was closed in two layers and a viable strap muscle interposed between the two suture lines. There were four deaths (10.9%). There were three recurrent fistulas and one delayed tracheal stenosis. All were successfully managed. Of the 34 surviving patients, 33 aliment themselves orally and 32 breathe without the need for a tracheal appliance.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Methods
  • Middle Aged
  • Postoperative Care
  • Postoperative Complications
  • Recurrence
  • Trachea / surgery
  • Tracheoesophageal Fistula / etiology
  • Tracheoesophageal Fistula / mortality
  • Tracheoesophageal Fistula / surgery*