Pretreatment Dysphagia in Esophageal Cancer Patients May Eliminate the Need for Staging by Endoscopic Ultrasonography

Ann Thorac Surg. 2016 Jan;101(1):226-230. doi: 10.1016/j.athoracsur.2015.06.062. Epub 2015 Oct 23.


Background: Neoadjuvant therapy is commonly administered to patients with localized disease who have T3-4 esophageal disease as staged by endoscopic ultrasound (EUS). Previously, we noted that patients who present with dysphagia have a higher EUS T stage. We hypothesized that the presence of dysphagia is predictive of EUS T3-4 disease and that staging EUS could be forgone for esophageal cancer patients with dysphagia.

Methods: We performed a prospective, intent-to-treat, single-cohort study in which patients with potentially resectable esophageal cancer completed a standardized four-tier dysphagia score survey. EUS was performed as part of our standard evaluation. To determine whether the presence of dysphagia predicted EUS T3-4 disease, the dysphagia score was compared with EUS T stage.

Results: The study enrolled 114 consecutive patients between August 2012 and February 2014: 77% (88 of 114) received neoadjuvant therapy, 18% (20 of 114) did not, and 5% (6 of 114) pursued treatment elsewhere. In total, 70% (80 of 114) underwent esophagectomy; of these, 54% (61 of 114) had dysphagia and 46% (53 of 114) did not. Dysphagia scores were 66% (40 of 61) grade 1, 25% (15 of 61) grade 2, and 10% (6 of 61) grade 3 to 4. Among patients with dysphagia, 89% (54 of 61) had T3-4 disease by EUS; among those without dysphagia, only 53% (28 of 53) had T3-4 disease by EUS (p < 0.001).

Conclusions: The presence of dysphagia in patients with esophageal cancer was highly predictive of T3-4 disease by EUS. On the basis of this finding, approximately 50% of patients currently undergoing staging EUS at our institution could potentially forgo EUS before neoadjuvant therapy. Patients without dysphagia, however, should still undergo EUS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Dysphonia / etiology
  • Dysphonia / therapy*
  • Endosonography*
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / complications*
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoadjuvant Therapy
  • Neoplasm Staging / methods*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Unnecessary Procedures*