Caustic injuries of the upper digestive tract: a population observational study

Surg Endosc. 2012 Jan;26(1):214-21. doi: 10.1007/s00464-011-1857-0. Epub 2011 Aug 20.


Background: Both observational and aggressive surgical strategies have been advocated for the treatment of corrosive injuries of the upper gastrointestinal tract (UGT) but the optimal management is still a dilemma. The aim of this study was to report our experience with caustic UGT injuries in adult patients treated with a surgically aggressive, endoscopy-based therapeutic protocol over a 6-year period.

Patients and methods: Between January 2002 and December 2007, 315 patients (138 men, mean age = 40 ± 15.5 years) were referred for corrosive UGT injuries. Emergency endoscopy was performed in all patients at admission. Patients with mild injuries (grades I-IIIa) were offered nonoperative management, whereas emergency surgery was performed for severe injuries (grades IIIb and IV). Esophageal reconstruction was offered to psychologically stable patients after emergency esophageal resection and for esophageal strictures that failed endoscopic dilation. Functional failure was defined as the impossibility to remove the jejunostomy or/and the tracheotomy tube.

Results: At endoscopy 73 (23%) patients did not have UGT injuries, 158 (50%) patients had mild injuries eligible for nonoperative management and 84 (27%) patients had severe injuries. Nonoperative management was successful in 93% of patients with mild injuries. Surgical exploration was eventually performed in 88 (28%) patients and resection was undertaken in 76 of them. Emergency mortality was 7% and all fatalities were patients with initial severe injuries. After a median follow-up of 6 days (range = 1 day-8.5 years), functional failure was recorded in 9 (3%) patients, all of whom had initial severe injuries.

Conclusion: Emergency endoscopic grading of caustic injuries is the main factor that conditions outcome after caustic ingestion.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Burns, Chemical / etiology
  • Burns, Chemical / surgery*
  • Caustics / adverse effects*
  • Endoscopy, Gastrointestinal / methods*
  • Esophagectomy / methods
  • Female
  • Gastrectomy / methods
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Upper Gastrointestinal Tract / injuries*
  • Upper Gastrointestinal Tract / surgery


  • Caustics