Original Article

Surgery and perioperative management for post-intubation tracheoesophageal fistula: case series analysis

Francesco Puma, Jacopo Vannucci, Stefano Santoprete, Moira Urbani, Lucio Cagini, Marco Andolfi, Rossella Potenza, Niccolò Daddi


Background: Post-intubation tracheoesophageal fistula (PITEF) is an often mistreated, severe condition. This case series reviewed for both the choice and timing of surgical technique and outcome PITEF patients.
Methods: This case series reviewed ten consecutive patients who had undergone esophageal defect repair and airway resection/reconstruction between 2000 and 2014. All cases were examined for patients: general condition, medical history, preparation to surgery, diagnostic work-up, timing of surgery and procedure, fistula size and site, ventilation type, nutrition, post-operative course and complications.
Results: All patients were treated according to Grillo’s technique. Overall, 6/10 patients had undergone a preliminary period of medical preparation. Additionally, 3 patients had already had a tracheostomy, one had had a gastrostomy and 4 had both. One patient had a Dumon stent with enlargement of the fistula. Concomitant tracheal stenosis had been found in 7 patients. The mean length of the fistulas was 20.5 mm (median 17.5 mm; range, 8–45 mm), at a median distance from the glottis of 43 mm (range, 20–68 mm). Tracheal resection was performed in all ten cases. The fistula was included in the resection in 6 patients, while it was excluded in the remaining 4 due to their distance. Post-repair tracheotomy was performed in 3 patients. The procedure was performed in 2 ventilated patients. Morbidity related to fistula and anastomosis was recorded in 3 patients (30%), with one postoperative death (10%); T-Tube placement was necessary in 3 patients, with 2/3 decannulations after long-stenting. Definitive PITEF closure was obtained for all patients. At 5-year follow-up, the 9 surviving patients had no fistula-related morbidity.
Conclusions: Primary esophageal closure with tracheal resection/reconstruction seemed to be effective treatment both short and long-term. Systemic conditions, mechanical ventilation, detailed preoperative assessment and appropriate preparation were associated with outcome. Indeed, the 3 patients who had received T-Tube recovered from anastomotic complications.

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