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Endoscopic Techniques for the Management of Esophageal Perforation

Open ArchivePublished:February 03, 2016DOI:https://doi.org/10.1053/j.optechstcvs.2016.01.001
      Esophageal perforations or leaks can be spontaneous, iatrogenic, related to esophageal pathology, or postoperative. The modern management of esophageal perforations can involve endoscopy, surgery, or a hybrid approach, and it should be tailored to the individual patient to ensure the best outcome. It is important for the thoracic surgeon to understand current endoscopic technologies to manage esophageal perforations and their clinical applications.

      Keywords

      Introduction

      Esophageal perforations are challenging to manage and are life threatening for our patients. The etiology is varied and includes spontaneous (Boerhaave syndrome), postoperative (eg, postesophagectomy anastomotic leak, leak following esophageal diverticulum resection, leak following Heller myotomy, and leak following peroral endoscopic myotomy), iatrogenic perforations (eg, perforation following esophageal dilatation), and those related to esophageal tumors. The principles of management for esophageal perforation include adequate drainage to control sepsis, nutritional support, and definitive management of the perforation in the form of surgical or endoscopic intervention, or a hybrid approach thereof. The use of minimally invasive technologies, that is, video assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) is used with increasing prevalence in thoracic surgical practice; and in the case of esophageal pathology, endoscopic interventions are also playing an increasingly large role. The thoracic surgeon should be familiar with available treatment, both endoscopic and surgical, for the management of patients with esophageal perforations that can allow tailored individual management.
      In the successful management of esophageal leaks and perforations, patient selection is important. In our institutionʼs experience, endoscopic therapy rather than surgery can be appropriate for patients presenting early (≤24 hours), with perforations ≤1 cm (through the scope clip or suture or over the scope clip or suture) and ≥1 cm (primary endoluminal closure with stent placement) and no evidence of sepsis (unpublished data). This is supported by the observation that smaller esophageal perforations with no significant mediastinal or pleural contamination can be successfully managed endoscopically.
      • Abbas G.
      • Schuchert M.J.
      • Pettiford B.L.
      • et al.
      Contemporaneous management of esophageal perforation.
      When suitable, endoscopic therapy for esophageal perforations can allow esophageal preservation.
      • Gaur P.
      • Lyons C.
      • Malik T.M.
      • et al.
      Endoluminal suturing of an anastomotic leak.
      • Schaheen L.
      • Blackmon S.H.
      • Nason K.S.
      Optimal approach to the management of intrathoracic esophageal leak following esophagectomy: A systematic review.
      It is essential to recognize which patients must be managed with surgical intervention (through a VATS or open approach), which usually involves those patients with large perforations and significant sepsis. In some patients esophagectomy may be required.
      • Seo Y.D.
      • Lin J.
      • Chang A.C.
      • et al.
      Emergent esophagectomy for esophageal perforations: A safe option.
      This may contribute to the observation that outcomes of patients with esophageal perforations are improved when managed in high volume centers, particularly with reference to those managed endoscopically
      • Markar S.R.
      • MacKenzie H.
      • Wiggins T.
      • et al.
      Management and outcomes of esophageal perforation: A national study of 2,564 patients in England.
      .
      Endoscopic therapy for esophageal leaks and perforations include through the scope clips and over the scope clips, endoscopic suturing, and endoscopic stenting, or a combination of these. Our aim is to provide a detailed description of these endoscopic techniques and outline their clinical application in the management of esophageal perforations (Figure 1, Figure 2, Figure 3, Figure 4, Figure 5, Figure 6, Figure 7, Figure 8, Figure 9, Figure 10).
      Figure thumbnail gr1
      Figure 1Common anatomical locations for esophageal perforations. Esophageal perforations may occur throughout the esophagus. Cervical perforations usually occur above the cricopharyngeus muscle and may be related to a pharyngeal pouch. Cervical anastomotic leaks may occur following transhiatal esophagectomies and one of the advantages of this approach is that the sepsis is often localized to the neck. The cervical incision may be opened and drained to achieve control of the sepsis. Mid esophageal perforations are commonly related to anastomotic leaks following Ivor-Lewis esophagectomy. These leaks contaminate the right chest and the patient becomes quickly unwell with sepsis and systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) response. Spontaneous or Boerhaave perforations are most common in the distal esophagus to the left of the midline. A left pleural effusion is frequently seen on radiological imaging for this reason. m = muscle.
      Figure thumbnail gr2
      Figure 2Endoscopic assessment of an esophageal perforation. When esophageal perforation or leak is suspected and endoscopic treatment considered appropriate, endoscopic evaluation is essential. The diagnosis of esophageal perforation can be made on chest CT with oral contrast (esophageal contrast leak, pneumomediastinum, and left pleural effusion) or gastrograffin swallow. Endoscopic evaluation allows the size of the perforation to be established. The width of the perforation and its length (proximal and distal extent in centimeters from the incisors) can be assessed. Evaluation can be made as to whether this should be primarily closed alone or closed and a stent placed to buttress this repair. Importantly, endoscopic evaluation for patients with anastomotic leaks allows an assessment of tissue quality and identification of any ischemia. CT = computed tomography.
      Figure thumbnail gr3a
      Figure 3Through the scope clips. If the perforation or leak is small (≤1 cm) then this can be closed with through the scope clips (eg, resolution clip). The through the scope clips are passed through the scope to the site of the perforation. Using the “zipper” technique the defect is closed, first approximating the edge furthest away from the scope. This allows the defect size to be reduced as subsequent clips are placed (A).
      Figure thumbnail gr3b
      Figure 3Through the scope clips. If the perforation or leak is small (≤1 cm) then this can be closed with through the scope clips (eg, resolution clip). The through the scope clips are passed through the scope to the site of the perforation. Using the “zipper” technique the defect is closed, first approximating the edge furthest away from the scope. This allows the defect size to be reduced as subsequent clips are placed (A).
      Figure thumbnail gr4
      Figure 4Over the scope clips. If the perforation or leak is small (≤1 cm) then this can be closed with an “over the scope” clip device (eg, Ovesco clip), alone or in combination with an esophageal stent. The clips are mounted onto the endoscope before insertion and an overtube is recommended for safe scope insertion. The esophageal defect is visualized and the scope placed over this. The defect is suctioned into the endoscope and the clip deployed. The adequacy of closure of the defect can then be assessed, and small defects can be fully closed in this manner.
      Figure thumbnail gr5a
      Figure 5Endoscopic suturing of an esophageal perforation. Endoscopic suturing can be performed using a suturing device, for example, Apollo device. An overtube is first placed to ensure that the device does not injure the esophagus on its introduction. Once the overtube is in place, a dual-channel endoscope is inserted through this to the site of the perforation. Using the suturing device the defect can be closed in an interrupted or continuous fashion using 2-0 polypropylene or 2-0 polydioxanone sutures. Care should be taken to close the entire defect and multiple washings may be required to facilitate adequate visualization. (A) The scope, with suturing device, is introduced through an overtube into the esophagus and the esophageal perforation assessed.
      Figure thumbnail gr5b
      Figure 5Endoscopic suturing of an esophageal perforation. Endoscopic suturing can be performed using a suturing device, for example, Apollo device. An overtube is first placed to ensure that the device does not injure the esophagus on its introduction. Once the overtube is in place, a dual-channel endoscope is inserted through this to the site of the perforation. Using the suturing device the defect can be closed in an interrupted or continuous fashion using 2-0 polypropylene or 2-0 polydioxanone sutures. Care should be taken to close the entire defect and multiple washings may be required to facilitate adequate visualization. (A) The scope, with suturing device, is introduced through an overtube into the esophagus and the esophageal perforation assessed.
      Figure thumbnail gr5c
      Figure 5Endoscopic suturing of an esophageal perforation. Endoscopic suturing can be performed using a suturing device, for example, Apollo device. An overtube is first placed to ensure that the device does not injure the esophagus on its introduction. Once the overtube is in place, a dual-channel endoscope is inserted through this to the site of the perforation. Using the suturing device the defect can be closed in an interrupted or continuous fashion using 2-0 polypropylene or 2-0 polydioxanone sutures. Care should be taken to close the entire defect and multiple washings may be required to facilitate adequate visualization. (A) The scope, with suturing device, is introduced through an overtube into the esophagus and the esophageal perforation assessed.
      Figure thumbnail gr5d
      Figure 5Endoscopic suturing of an esophageal perforation. Endoscopic suturing can be performed using a suturing device, for example, Apollo device. An overtube is first placed to ensure that the device does not injure the esophagus on its introduction. Once the overtube is in place, a dual-channel endoscope is inserted through this to the site of the perforation. Using the suturing device the defect can be closed in an interrupted or continuous fashion using 2-0 polypropylene or 2-0 polydioxanone sutures. Care should be taken to close the entire defect and multiple washings may be required to facilitate adequate visualization. (A) The scope, with suturing device, is introduced through an overtube into the esophagus and the esophageal perforation assessed.
      Figure thumbnail gr5e
      Figure 5Endoscopic suturing of an esophageal perforation. Endoscopic suturing can be performed using a suturing device, for example, Apollo device. An overtube is first placed to ensure that the device does not injure the esophagus on its introduction. Once the overtube is in place, a dual-channel endoscope is inserted through this to the site of the perforation. Using the suturing device the defect can be closed in an interrupted or continuous fashion using 2-0 polypropylene or 2-0 polydioxanone sutures. Care should be taken to close the entire defect and multiple washings may be required to facilitate adequate visualization. (A) The scope, with suturing device, is introduced through an overtube into the esophagus and the esophageal perforation assessed.
      Figure thumbnail gr5f
      Figure 5Endoscopic suturing of an esophageal perforation. Endoscopic suturing can be performed using a suturing device, for example, Apollo device. An overtube is first placed to ensure that the device does not injure the esophagus on its introduction. Once the overtube is in place, a dual-channel endoscope is inserted through this to the site of the perforation. Using the suturing device the defect can be closed in an interrupted or continuous fashion using 2-0 polypropylene or 2-0 polydioxanone sutures. Care should be taken to close the entire defect and multiple washings may be required to facilitate adequate visualization. (A) The scope, with suturing device, is introduced through an overtube into the esophagus and the esophageal perforation assessed.
      Figure thumbnail gr5g
      Figure 5Endoscopic suturing of an esophageal perforation. Endoscopic suturing can be performed using a suturing device, for example, Apollo device. An overtube is first placed to ensure that the device does not injure the esophagus on its introduction. Once the overtube is in place, a dual-channel endoscope is inserted through this to the site of the perforation. Using the suturing device the defect can be closed in an interrupted or continuous fashion using 2-0 polypropylene or 2-0 polydioxanone sutures. Care should be taken to close the entire defect and multiple washings may be required to facilitate adequate visualization. (A) The scope, with suturing device, is introduced through an overtube into the esophagus and the esophageal perforation assessed.
      Figure thumbnail gr5h
      Figure 5Endoscopic suturing of an esophageal perforation. Endoscopic suturing can be performed using a suturing device, for example, Apollo device. An overtube is first placed to ensure that the device does not injure the esophagus on its introduction. Once the overtube is in place, a dual-channel endoscope is inserted through this to the site of the perforation. Using the suturing device the defect can be closed in an interrupted or continuous fashion using 2-0 polypropylene or 2-0 polydioxanone sutures. Care should be taken to close the entire defect and multiple washings may be required to facilitate adequate visualization. (A) The scope, with suturing device, is introduced through an overtube into the esophagus and the esophageal perforation assessed.
      Figure thumbnail gr5i
      Figure 5Endoscopic suturing of an esophageal perforation. Endoscopic suturing can be performed using a suturing device, for example, Apollo device. An overtube is first placed to ensure that the device does not injure the esophagus on its introduction. Once the overtube is in place, a dual-channel endoscope is inserted through this to the site of the perforation. Using the suturing device the defect can be closed in an interrupted or continuous fashion using 2-0 polypropylene or 2-0 polydioxanone sutures. Care should be taken to close the entire defect and multiple washings may be required to facilitate adequate visualization. (A) The scope, with suturing device, is introduced through an overtube into the esophagus and the esophageal perforation assessed.
      Figure thumbnail gr5j
      Figure 5Endoscopic suturing of an esophageal perforation. Endoscopic suturing can be performed using a suturing device, for example, Apollo device. An overtube is first placed to ensure that the device does not injure the esophagus on its introduction. Once the overtube is in place, a dual-channel endoscope is inserted through this to the site of the perforation. Using the suturing device the defect can be closed in an interrupted or continuous fashion using 2-0 polypropylene or 2-0 polydioxanone sutures. Care should be taken to close the entire defect and multiple washings may be required to facilitate adequate visualization. (A) The scope, with suturing device, is introduced through an overtube into the esophagus and the esophageal perforation assessed.
      Figure thumbnail gr6a
      Figure 6Endoscopic stenting of an esophageal perforation. For larger perforations or leaks closure with suturing or clips should be supplemented by esophageal stenting.
      • Schaheen L.
      • Blackmon S.H.
      • Nason K.S.
      Optimal approach to the management of intrathoracic esophageal leak following esophagectomy: A systematic review.
      Once the esophageal defect is approximated a guidewire is inserted into the stomach through the scope to guide subsequent stent placement. A marker is placed on the patient׳s body (eg, surgical instrument or paperclip) using fluoroscopy to correspond with the perforation site to ensure correct stent placement. The endoscope is removed and the stent inserted over the wire under fluoroscopic control. The stent introducer is positioned and markers aligned so as to ensure 2-4 cm proximal and 2-4 cm distal coverage from the site of the marked perforation. We prefer to use a Boston Scientific 155-mm length partially or fully covered self-expanding metal stent for this purpose. The stent is deployed, paying attention to the deployment in relation to the perforation to ensure that once the “no return point” of deployment is reached a satisfactory position has been achieved. (A) The endoscope is introduced and a wire placed through the scope into the stomach. This guidewire is used to introduce the stent device into the stomach under fluoroscopic control.
      Figure thumbnail gr6b
      Figure 6Endoscopic stenting of an esophageal perforation. For larger perforations or leaks closure with suturing or clips should be supplemented by esophageal stenting.
      • Schaheen L.
      • Blackmon S.H.
      • Nason K.S.
      Optimal approach to the management of intrathoracic esophageal leak following esophagectomy: A systematic review.
      Once the esophageal defect is approximated a guidewire is inserted into the stomach through the scope to guide subsequent stent placement. A marker is placed on the patient׳s body (eg, surgical instrument or paperclip) using fluoroscopy to correspond with the perforation site to ensure correct stent placement. The endoscope is removed and the stent inserted over the wire under fluoroscopic control. The stent introducer is positioned and markers aligned so as to ensure 2-4 cm proximal and 2-4 cm distal coverage from the site of the marked perforation. We prefer to use a Boston Scientific 155-mm length partially or fully covered self-expanding metal stent for this purpose. The stent is deployed, paying attention to the deployment in relation to the perforation to ensure that once the “no return point” of deployment is reached a satisfactory position has been achieved. (A) The endoscope is introduced and a wire placed through the scope into the stomach. This guidewire is used to introduce the stent device into the stomach under fluoroscopic control.
      Figure thumbnail gr7
      Figure 7Endoscopic management of a Boerhaave perforation. When stenting of the esophagus is considered for a Boerhaave perforation, the anatomic location often means the stent would be deployed across the gastroesophageal junction. There is a risk of reflux and life threatening aspiration, hence a venting gastrostomy and feeding jejunostomy are recommended. The availability of stents with one-way anti-reflux valves (EndoMAXX EVT, Merit, Salt Lake City, UT) has the potential to eliminate this specific adverse event, but these are not in widespread clinical use. In our experience, endoluminal suturing of the proximal stent reduces the risk of stent migration in these patients who usually do not have a stricturing esophageal lesion. Decortication of the lung or drainage of intrathoracic abscess with a tube thoracostomy is also required. There is no level 1 evidence to recommend the duration of stent, placement in this situation. The expert consensus opinion from both our thoracic surgery division and the gastroenterology division favors a shorter duration of stenting and if the leak is still present at the time of removal, we prefer placement of a new stent that is of differing length, size, or landing zone. Aortic erosions do occur and most appear to occur at the flare of the stent or at the location of perforation where the stent is in direct contact with the wall of the vessel. It is for this reason that we also recommend a muscle flap to interpose when a leak directly abuts the aorta or tracheobronchial tree. Intercostal muscle flap may be performed via video assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) or thoracotomy. The flap is either sutured over primary repair of the esophagus (repairing the mucosa and muscle separately) or sutured in place to fill the defect. When appropriate, a spontaneous esophageal perforation can therefore be managed with placement of an endoscopic stent. As this is likely to traverse the gastroesophageal junction, G-tube placement and J-tube placement allow gastric decompression and feeding respectively. Drainage of any associated intrathoracic or intra-abdominal abscess is essential.
      Figure thumbnail gr8a
      Figure 8Endoscopic management of an esophageal anastomotic leak following esophagectomy. To manage a leak after esophagectomy, intrathoracic contamination must be drained and adequate nutrition should be maintained, often via a feeding jejunostomy placed at the time of esophagectomy. The leak can be endoscopically sutured and stented. The postoperative anatomy means that it may be necessary to use more than one stent in a “sleeved” fashion to fully cover the defect and allow up to 4 cm proximal and distal coverage. The width of the gastric conduit and the lack of any stricturing lesion may promote stent migration and endoluminal suturing of stents can reduce this. Without suturing the stent in place, persistent leakage around stents is common.
      • Stephens E.H.
      • Correa A.M.
      • Kim M.P.
      • et al.
      Classification of esophageal stent leaks: Leak presentation, complications and management.
      (A) Owing to the width of the gastric conduit, a long length of esophageal stenting may be required to adequately seal an anastomotic leak and keep the stents in place.
      Figure thumbnail gr8b
      Figure 8Endoscopic management of an esophageal anastomotic leak following esophagectomy. To manage a leak after esophagectomy, intrathoracic contamination must be drained and adequate nutrition should be maintained, often via a feeding jejunostomy placed at the time of esophagectomy. The leak can be endoscopically sutured and stented. The postoperative anatomy means that it may be necessary to use more than one stent in a “sleeved” fashion to fully cover the defect and allow up to 4 cm proximal and distal coverage. The width of the gastric conduit and the lack of any stricturing lesion may promote stent migration and endoluminal suturing of stents can reduce this. Without suturing the stent in place, persistent leakage around stents is common.
      • Stephens E.H.
      • Correa A.M.
      • Kim M.P.
      • et al.
      Classification of esophageal stent leaks: Leak presentation, complications and management.
      (A) Owing to the width of the gastric conduit, a long length of esophageal stenting may be required to adequately seal an anastomotic leak and keep the stents in place.
      Figure thumbnail gr8c
      Figure 8Endoscopic management of an esophageal anastomotic leak following esophagectomy. To manage a leak after esophagectomy, intrathoracic contamination must be drained and adequate nutrition should be maintained, often via a feeding jejunostomy placed at the time of esophagectomy. The leak can be endoscopically sutured and stented. The postoperative anatomy means that it may be necessary to use more than one stent in a “sleeved” fashion to fully cover the defect and allow up to 4 cm proximal and distal coverage. The width of the gastric conduit and the lack of any stricturing lesion may promote stent migration and endoluminal suturing of stents can reduce this. Without suturing the stent in place, persistent leakage around stents is common.
      • Stephens E.H.
      • Correa A.M.
      • Kim M.P.
      • et al.
      Classification of esophageal stent leaks: Leak presentation, complications and management.
      (A) Owing to the width of the gastric conduit, a long length of esophageal stenting may be required to adequately seal an anastomotic leak and keep the stents in place.
      Figure thumbnail gr8d
      Figure 8Endoscopic management of an esophageal anastomotic leak following esophagectomy. To manage a leak after esophagectomy, intrathoracic contamination must be drained and adequate nutrition should be maintained, often via a feeding jejunostomy placed at the time of esophagectomy. The leak can be endoscopically sutured and stented. The postoperative anatomy means that it may be necessary to use more than one stent in a “sleeved” fashion to fully cover the defect and allow up to 4 cm proximal and distal coverage. The width of the gastric conduit and the lack of any stricturing lesion may promote stent migration and endoluminal suturing of stents can reduce this. Without suturing the stent in place, persistent leakage around stents is common.
      • Stephens E.H.
      • Correa A.M.
      • Kim M.P.
      • et al.
      Classification of esophageal stent leaks: Leak presentation, complications and management.
      (A) Owing to the width of the gastric conduit, a long length of esophageal stenting may be required to adequately seal an anastomotic leak and keep the stents in place.
      Figure thumbnail gr8e
      Figure 8Endoscopic management of an esophageal anastomotic leak following esophagectomy. To manage a leak after esophagectomy, intrathoracic contamination must be drained and adequate nutrition should be maintained, often via a feeding jejunostomy placed at the time of esophagectomy. The leak can be endoscopically sutured and stented. The postoperative anatomy means that it may be necessary to use more than one stent in a “sleeved” fashion to fully cover the defect and allow up to 4 cm proximal and distal coverage. The width of the gastric conduit and the lack of any stricturing lesion may promote stent migration and endoluminal suturing of stents can reduce this. Without suturing the stent in place, persistent leakage around stents is common.
      • Stephens E.H.
      • Correa A.M.
      • Kim M.P.
      • et al.
      Classification of esophageal stent leaks: Leak presentation, complications and management.
      (A) Owing to the width of the gastric conduit, a long length of esophageal stenting may be required to adequately seal an anastomotic leak and keep the stents in place.
      Figure thumbnail gr9
      Figure 9Drainage of a cervical esophageal perforation or anastomotic leak. Owing to the position of the cervical anastomosis following transhiatal esophagectomy it is rarely necessary to intervene beyond drainage of the sepsis. The neck incision can be re-opened to allow drainage of saliva and any purulent material. This, antibiotics and jejunostomy feeding are often enough to treat the leak. Stenting of the cervical esophagus is poorly tolerated and rarely performed.
      Figure thumbnail gr10
      Figure 10Endoscopic washout of a thoracic abscess related to an esophageal perforation. Esophageal leaks or perforation may be closed as described but if this is not possible, endoscopic washout and sponge placement is an alternative approach to allow healing of the cavity. In all, healing of the cavity. One approach is to place an E-vac into the cavity, an endoluminal sponge that allows the application of suction to promote healing and cavity shrinkage whilst draining the contamination.
      • Smallwood N.R.
      • Flashman J.W.
      • Leeds S.G.
      • et al.
      The use of endoluminal (E-Vac) therapy in the management of upper gastrointestinal leaks and perforations.
      Other approaches to promoting healing of intrathoracic cavities following esophageal leaks include placement of vicryl plugs, Surgisis soft tissue graft (Cook Biotech Inc, West Latayette, Ind), and biodegradable stents.
      Figure thumbnail gr6c
      Figure 6(Continued) (C) Once the stent is fully deployed there should be an adequate “landing zone” on either side of the perforation. The introducer is withdrawn from the patient. Endoscopic suturing of the stent can then be used to reduce the risk of stent migration.

      Conclusion

      The management of esophageal perforations has evolved. The underlying principles of drainage of sepsis, adequate nutrition and repair, or defunctioning of the esophagus remain, but the techniques available to enable esophageal repair (where appropriate) have developed. Endoscopic therapy and VATS are used with increasing frequency and in appropriately selected patients with good results. The importance of patient selection is highlighted by Abbas et al
      • Abbas G.
      • Schuchert M.J.
      • Pettiford B.L.
      • et al.
      Contemporaneous management of esophageal perforation.
      who demonstrated that patients with esophageal leak or perforation in whom a nonoperative approach was used had a shorter hospital stay (13 vs 24 days), fewer complications (36% vs 62%), and less mortality (4% vs 15%) than those managed operatively. The decision to operate was based on degree of mediastinal contamination or systemic sepsis and arguably the sicker patients underwent operative intervention. This study highlights that in a well-selected group of patients surgery is not always indicated in the management of esophageal perforations. More recently, Markar et al
      • Markar S.R.
      • MacKenzie H.
      • Wiggins T.
      • et al.
      Management and outcomes of esophageal perforation: A national study of 2,564 patients in England.
      have demonstrated a trend toward increasing nonoperative intervention of esophageal perforations (between 2001 and 2012) in a national study with no increase in 30-day or 90-day mortality.
      To manage these perforations endoscopically, endoscopic clips (through the scope and over the scope) have shown good outcomes.
      • Bona D.
      • Aiolfi A.
      • Rausa E.
      • et al.
      Management of Boerhaaveʼs syndrome with an over-the-scope clip.
      Once more, patient selection is crucial as is concomitant drainage of sepsis and nutritional support. Periprocedural contrast evaluation of the repair is important as is postprocedural monitoring to ensure clinical improvement. The surgeon must be vigilant to detect any dislodged clip when oral intake resumes. Endoluminal suturing may also be applied to the close spontaneous perforations and leaks related to esophageal reconstruction.
      • Gaur P.
      • Lyons C.
      • Malik T.M.
      • et al.
      Endoluminal suturing of an anastomotic leak.
      Depending on the size of the perforation, a partially covered stent may also be necessary. These stents can be sutured in place endoscopically in an attempt to reduce the risk of migration and persistent leak. A propensity-matched analysis of esophageal stent placement vs surgery was performed for 60 patients with iatrogenic esophageal perforations.
      • Freeman R.K.
      • Herrera A.
      • Ascioti A.J.
      • et al.
      A propensity matched comparison of cost and outcomes after esophageal stent placement or primary surgical repair for iatrogenic esophageal perforation.
      Patient morbidity, length of stay, time to oral intake, and cost was reduced in the stent group. There were no significant differences in age and preoperative Charlson comorbidity scores. Despite this, esophageal stenting for leak or perforation is not without risk. An esophageal stent may erode local structures, for example, aorta if left in place for too long, however, not long enough and the perforation or leak would not be healed at the time of stent removal. Stents may also migrate or develop stent leaks. Freeman et al
      • Freeman R.K.
      • Ascioti A.J.
      • Dake M.
      • et al.
      An assessment of the optimal time doe removal of esophageal stents used in the treatment of an esophageal anastomotic leak or perforation.
      suggest removal of stents for anastomotic leak at ≤2 weeks and for esophageal perforation ≤4 weeks. If there is a persistent leak based on endoscopic or radiological examination or both at the time of stent removal another stent can be placed with a different “landing zone” in an attempt to distribute the pressure on the esophageal wall. For those patients stented for an anastomotic leak postesophagectomy, multiple stents are often required because of the size discrepancy between the conduit and the stent.
      Drainage of sepsis is essential to healing of the esophageal leak or perforation. In some patients in whom an intrathoracic cavity is present, the use of a vacuum device (eg, E-Vac) can allow esophageal healing and sepsis control. In suitable patients endoscopy is performed with assessment of the perforation and associated cavity, endoscopic irrigation, and debridement of necrotic tissue. To enable vacuum therapy of the cavity, the foam is sutured to the nasogastric (NG) tube ensuring that all of the NG tube holes are covered by the foam. The NG with foam attached is then introduced into the esophagus with the aid of an overtube. The foam can be appropriately positioned into the cavity with endoscopic forceps. A rendezvous technique is an alternative method to position the foam if the patient has a drain in place. The NG tube is then attached to suction to allow therapy to begin (SAGES: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4bt0f9-79qs). Although current studies involve a small number of patients and are mainly outside of the United States of America, this therapy has considerable potential application.
      Endoscopic therapy for the management of esophageal leaks and perforations is a rapidly evolving field and of considerable therapeutic benefit in selected patients. Knowledge of the applications of these techniques is essential for the “tool box” of a general thoracic surgeon.

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