Rates of anastomotic leak in patients who undergo oesophagectomy with cervical anastomosis formation are reported within the literature to surpass those of patients undergoing thoracic anastomosis formation. Though preferred by a number of surgeons, cervical anastomosis is associated with higher rates of anastomotic leak, the consequences of which can be severe. Routine contrast oesophagograms are therefore utilised in a number of institutions as a means of recognising leaks early. They are not without potential complications, however, and the predictive value of contrast imaging has previously been debated. This best evidence topic reviews the use of contrast oesophagograms in screening for cervical anastamotic leak, concluding that their inherent risk of aspiration combined with poor sensitivity should preclude their use as a screening tool. High rates of specificity nevertheless indicate the potential utility of these studies in patients for whom there is clinical suspicion of a leak.
Keywords: Anastomotic leakage; Contrast; Imaging; Leaks; Oesophageal cancer; Oesophagus; Radiology.
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