Malignant tracheo-esophageal fistula: use of esophageal endoprosthesis

J Surg Oncol. 1996 Sep;63(1):65-70. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1096-9098(199609)63:1<65::AID-JSO13>3.0.CO;2-O.


Malignant tracheo-esophageal fistula (TEF) is a serious complication of cancer arising usually in the esophagus, lung, or tracheobronchial tree. Repeated aspiration and pneumonia lead to rapid deterioration and death. The prognosis is dismal and curative resections are curiosities. Surgical bypass of the lesion has been performed but is associated with 25-61% mortality. Other treatments have been employed, such as enterostomies, esophageal endoprostheses, and supportive care. The reported mortality of palliative procedures using endoprostheses, surgical bypass, or exclusion in almost identical. A retrospective review of the data over the past decade revealed a trend toward insertion of endoprostheses. Insertion of endoprostheses can be performed in an endoscopy suite, under sedation, and has fewer major complications than occur with a surgical approach. The periprocedure mortality rate for these patients is 15%, compared to a 29-47% perioperative mortality for patients undergoing surgery. Even so, patients after surgical procedures could survive for 8 months or more, which is better than survival after endoprosthesis intubation. We conclude that insertion of an esophageal endoprosthesis should be the usual preferred option for palliative treatment of malignant TEF. However, for special candidates a surgical procedure is a valid option.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Esophageal Neoplasms / complications*
  • Esophagus / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / complications*
  • Palliative Care / methods
  • Stents*
  • Tracheal Neoplasms / complications*
  • Tracheoesophageal Fistula / etiology
  • Tracheoesophageal Fistula / surgery*