Purpose: The morbidity and mortality associated with esophageal atresia with or without a fistula make it a challenging congenital abnormality for the pediatric surgeon. Anatomic factors like inter-pouch gap and origin of fistula are not taken into consideration in various prognostic classifications. The preoperative evaluation of these cases with computerized tomography (CT) has been used by various investigators to delineate these factors. We reviewed these studies to evaluate the usefulness of this investigation in the intra operative and post operative period.
Materials and methods: A literature search was done on all peer-reviewed articles published on preoperative computed tomography (CT) in cases of tracheoesophageal fistula using the PUBMED and MEDLINE search engines. Key words included tracheoesophageal fistula, computerized tomography, virtual bronchoscopy, and 3D computerized tomography reconstruction. Further, additional articles were selected from the list of references obtained from the retrieved publications. A total of 8 articles were selected for analysis.
Results: In most of the studies, comprising 96 patients, observations noted in preoperative CT were confirmed during surgery. In a study by Mahalik et al [Mahalik SK, Sodhi KS, Narasimhan KL, Rao KL. Role of preoperative 3D CT reconstruction for evaluation of patients with esophageal atresia and tracheoesophageal fistula. Pediatr Surg Int. 2012 Jun 22. [Epub ahead of print]], in 6 patients the fistula could not be identified pre-operatively by CT. One study found a difference of 0.43 cm in the intraoperative gap length compared to that given by CT when compared to +/- 2 mm shown by another [1. Mahalik SK, Sodhi KS, Narasimhan KL, Rao KL. Role of preoperative 3D CT reconstruction for evaluation of patients with esophageal atresia and tracheoesophageal fistula. Pediatr Surg Int. 2012 Jun 22. [Epub ahead of print], 3. Ratan SK, Varshney A, Mullick S, Saxena NC, Kakkar S, Sodhi PK. Evaluation of neonates with esophageal atresia using chest CT scan. Pediatr Surg Int. 2004 Oct; 20(10):757-61.]. Only three studies showed surgical utility of pre-operative CT, and the surgical plan changed based on the CT findings.
Conclusion: The usefulness of pre-operative computerized tomography in cases of tracheoesophageal fistula is controversial. The safety of this technique is questionable due to limited facilities and associated radiation hazards. Further, limited information obtained which may help in changing the surgical plan can easily be managed intra-operatively by careful and meticulous surgery. Overall, the safety concerns outweigh its efficacy. Thus, the use of pre-operative CT scan cannot be generalized and protocolized as a standard of care in the management of tracheoesophageal atresia.
Keywords: Computerized tomography; Inter pouch gap; Tracheoesophageal fistula.