Background and aim: Iatrogenic tracheal injuries are uncommon, potentially lethal and associated with significant morbidity. In this report we analyze the incidence of iatrogenic tracheobronchial injuries sustained during oesophagectomies and the results and outcome of repair using a pedicled intercostal muscle flap.
Methods: A retrospective analysis was done on all patients who underwent an oesophagectomy between June 2000 and May 2011. Data was collected from an electronic database and the medical records of patients, maintained at our hospital.
Results: One hundred and fourteen patient records were analyzed. There were 85 male and 29 female patients. Their mean age was 47 years (range 16 to 86 years). Forty two (36%) underwent a transhiatal oesophagectomy, 34(31%) Mckeown’s oesophagectomy, 35(31%) Ivor Lewis oesophagectomy and 3(2%) thoracoscopy assisted oesophagectomy. Of the 114 oesophagectomies, 86 (75%) were performed for malignant and 28 (25%) for benign pathologies (benign tumors and corrosive strictures of the esophagus). In our study, four patients sustained injury to the tracheobronchial tree during oesophagectomy. In patients who sustained injury during a transhiatal dissection a right anterolateral thoracotomy was made. All injuries in the thoracic tracheobronchial tree were repaired primarily and reinforced with an intercostal muscle flap. In the patient with injury to the cervical part of the trachea, repair was done primarily and reinforced with cyanoacrylate glue. All patients who sustained injury had malignancy and three patients had received neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy. Two patients sustained injury during transhiatal oesophagectomy and two during a Mckeown’s oesophagectomy. There was one mortality which was due to ventilator associated pneumonia and related complications. The remaining three were alive with no evidence of repair breakdown.
Conclusions: Iatrogenic tracheal injuries are uncommon complications but associated with significant morbidity. Preoperative chemoradiotherapy and malignancy are risk factors for iatrogenic tracheal injuries. Reinforcement of the suture line with a muscle flap is an effective technique of repair. Prompt ontable identification and adequate surgical treatment is necessary for a good outcome.