Perforation of the oesophagus into the thoracic cavity is a potentially life-threatening condition. The causes are numerous. Treatment for oesophageal perforation targets mediastinal and pleural contamination. Present knowledge about the causes of perforation and the types of treatment is poor.
A retrospective review was made between 1997 and 2005 based on extracts from the National Patient Registry.
A total of 286 patients were diagnosed with perforation of the oesophagus (131 women and 155 men). Their average age was 60 years. A wide spectrum of causes was reported, e.g. instrumentation of the oesophagus 136 (47.6%), spontaneous rupture 89 (31.1%) or procedures otherwise related to surgical intervention 9 (3.1%). One third of the patients started conservative treatment 91 (31.9%). The majority of the patients were transferred to a thoracic surgery department for further treatment: about 25% of patients underwent surgery. The average hospitalization time was 18 days. The mortality rate was 21%.
Oesophageal perforation remains a diagnostic and therapeutic challenge and the condition requires aggressive treatment. Recent consensus in early treatment with thoracotomy, debridement, irrigation and subsequent parenteral nutrition has improved survival. In this material, most perforations were iatrogenic in nature. In the 2002-2005 period, the study showed that 29% of the iatrogenic perforations were caused by the use of a rigid endoscope which is risky and whose use should therefore be restricted. It is advisable to set up national guidelines for treatment of oesophageal perforation and to centralise treatment.