ABSTRACT Background: Esophageal perforation is a rare and potentially life-threatening condition requiring urgent management. Successful therapy depends on the underlying etiology, clinical presentation, the time between rupture and diagnosis, the extent of the rupture and the underlying health of the patient. Method: From 2005 to 2012, the author retrospectively analyzed 36 patients treated for esophageal perforation. Data were evaluated for cause of perforation, symptoms, comorbidities, the method of diagnosis, delay in diagnosis, therapeutic regimen, complications, hospital stay, follow-up and mortality. Results: The cause of perforation were iatrogenic in 14 cases (38.8%), foreign body ingestion in 11 (30.5%), spontaneous in 9 (25%), chest trauma in 1 (2.8%) and esophageal cancer in 1 case (2.8%). The most frequent signs and symptoms were chest pain in 27 cases (75%), fever in 15 (41.6%), dysphagia in 11 (30.5%), mediastinitis in 9 (25%) and vomiting in 8 (22%). The treatment included surgery in 26 cases (72.2%) which consists of thoracotomy (right or left), with or without esophageal suturing, washing, drainage with three chest tubes, jejunostomy and gastrostomy. The second group were patients treated medically in 10 cases (27.8%), medical treatment includes nil per os (NPO), parenteral nutrition, intravenous antibiotics and observation. Complications include fever (n = 14), auricular fibrillation (n = 7), esophageal fistula (n = 3), reoperation (n = 2), renal failure (n = 2), cerebrovascular accident (n = 1), pulmonary embolism (n = 1), pneumonia (n = 1) and deep vein thrombosis (n = 1). The average hospital stay for patients treated surgically was 36 days and for patients treated medically was 14.2 days. The overall mortality was 25% involving 8 patients treated surgically and 1 patient treated medically. Conclusion: The treatment method still must be chosen on an individual basis. Rapid diagnosis of this often life threatening condition is critical for expediting the choice of an optimal treatment strategy, whether surgical or non-surgical.
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