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Esophageal perforations: one is bad, two is worse
  1. Dustin Price,
  2. David Skarupa
  1. Surgery, University of Florida College of Medicine, Jacksonville, Florida, USA
  1. Correspondence to DrDustinPrice, Surgery, University of Florida College of Medicine, Jacksonville, FL 32610, USA; drprice10{at}


A 48-year-old man was admitted for medical management of recurrent Clostridium difficile (C-dif) colitis. One month prior to presentation, he underwent right thoracotomy and lower lobectomy for a carcinoid tumor at another hospital. His postoperative course was complicated by C-dif colitis, gastroesophageal reflux, and epigastric pain. He underwent two esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) procedures demonstrating mild esophagitis on the first procedure, followed by a linear ulcer on the second procedure 2 weeks later. On hospital day 9 of his current admission, he developed an acute abdomen and underwent an urgent exploratory laparotomy for presumed fulminant colitis. Findings included a healthy-appearing colon with only moderate distension, so a loop ileostomy was created for antegrade colonic irrigation. Postoperatively, a chest X-ray demonstrated a tension-appearing left pleural effusion, prompting tube thoracostomy placement. Initial output was greater than 2L of thin dark-brown fluid. An esophagram demonstrated a distal esophageal perforation (EP) and EGD was performed. Two medium-sized EPs were identified which appeared to arise from chronic-appearing ulcerations, one at 39 cm and one at 45 cm from the incisors (figure 1). A single 19mm×100 mm EndoMAXX fully covered stent was placed. Video-assisted thoracoscopic (VATS) drainage of the left hemithorax was performed in addition to placement of a right tube thoracostomy. Due to continued high output from the left thoracostomy tube, the stent was exchanged for a longer 23mm×100mm EndoMAXX fully covered stent. The patient stabilized for several days but again developed worsened sepsis, with EGD demonstrating inadequate coverage of the proximal perforation.

Figure 1

Endoscopic photograph showing left-sided esophageal perforation/fistula (black arrow). Gastroesophageal junction indicated by white arrow. NG, Nasogastric tube.

What would you have done?

  1. Repeat esophageal stenting with wide drainage of the thoracic cavity.

  2. Esophageal T-tube placement and wide drainage of the thoracic cavity.

  3. Esophageal resection with gastrostomy drainage and proximal diversion.

  4. Bilateral tube thoracostomies and antibiotic/antifungal therapy.

  • esophageal perforation
  • clostridium difficile
  • stent

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  • Contributors DP and DS are the sole contributors of this submission.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from anyfunding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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