Objective: Esophagorespiratory fistulas, especially in the upper third of the esophagus, are a complication of malignant esophageal tumors, which are difficult to manage. The efficacy of polyurethane-covered, self-expanding metal stents for palliation of malignant esophagorespiratory fistulas was investigated prospectively.
Methods: Eleven patients with malignant esophagorespiratory fistulas resp. perforations were treated with Gianturco-Z stents. In five patients the lesion was located in the proximal part of the esophagus. Because of the fistula all patients suffered from dysphagia even for liquids.
Results: No technical problems during the implantation procedure of the stents occurred. In the control radiography with water-soluble contrast media, the fistulas were completely sealed in 10 of 11 patients. Therefore the dysphagia score improved from 3.0 to 0.6. Nearly all Gianturco-Z stents (10/11) showed a sufficient expansion within 24 h after placement. Severe early or late complications were not encountered, with the exception of tumor overgrowth in one patient about 9 months after stent placement. In five patients, short term (3-6 days) retrosternal pain was observed, and one patient complained of slight foreign body sensation. By August 1997 all 11 patients had died of advanced disease, with a median survival time of 121 days (range, 22-300 days).
Conclusions: Gianturco-Z stents are highly effective for palliative treatment of esophagorespiratory fistula resp. perforations and have a low complication rate. Due to the fact that this stent shows no retraction during the release, a precise positioning is possible, especially in the case of tumors and fistulas in the upper third of the esophagus. It seems that use of the Gianturco-Z stent can be considered a good therapeutic method for palliative endoscopic treatment of this high risk patient group.