Article Abstract

Recurrent laryngeal nerve injury after esophagectomy for esophageal cancer: incidence, management, and impact on shortand long-term outcomes

Authors: Martijn G. Scholtemeijer, Maarten F. J. Seesing, Hylke J. F. Brenkman, Luuk M. Janssen, Richard van Hillegersberg, Jelle P. Ruurda


Background: Recurrent laryngeal nerve (RLN) injury caused by esophagectomy may lead to postoperative morbidity, however data on long-term recovery are scarce. The aim of this study was to evaluate the consequences of RLN palsy (RLNP) in terms of pulmonary morbidity and long-term functional recovery.
Methods: Patients who underwent a 3-stage transthoracic (McKeown) or a transhiatal esophagectomy for esophageal carcinoma in the University Medical Center Utrecht (UMCU) between January 2004 and March 2016 were included from a prospective database. Multivariable analyses were conducted to assess the association between RLNP and pulmonary complications and hospital stay. Data regarding long-term recovery were summarized using descriptive statistics.
Results: Out of the 451 included patients, 47 (10%) were diagnosed with RLNP. Of the patients with RLNP, 34 (7%) had a unilateral lesion, 8 (2%) had a bilateral lesion, and in 5 (1%) the location of the lesion was unknown. The incidence of RLNP was 3/127 (2%) in the transhiatal group, and 44/324 (14%) in the McKeown group. RLNP after McKeown esophagectomy was associated with a higher incidence of pulmonary complications (OR 2.391; 95% CI 1.222–4.679; P=0.011), as well as a longer hospital stay (+4 days) (P=0.001). Of the RLNP patients with more than 6 months follow up almost half recovered fully {median follow-up of 17.5 [7–135] months}. Of the remainder, six required a surgical intervention and the others had residual symptoms.
Conclusions: RLNP after McKeown esophagectomy is associated with an increased pulmonary complication rate, longer hospital stay, and a moderate long-term recovery. Further studies are necessary that examine technologies, which may reduce RLNP incidence and contribute to the early detection and treatment of RLNP.