Patterns of operative mortality following esophagectomy

C. Schieman, D. A. Wigle, C. Deschamps, F. C. Nichols, S. D. Cassivi, K. R. Shen, M. S. Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Esophagectomy has one of the highest mortality rates among all surgical procedures. We investigated the type and frequency of complications associated with perioperative mortality after esophagectomy. We performed a retrospective review of all perioperative deaths following esophagectomy for esophageal cancer at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester from 1993 through 2009. Of 1522 esophagectomies, perioperative mortality occurred in 45 (3.0%). The majority who died were male (82%); median age was 72 years (range 46-92). The median age-adjusted Charlson comorbidity score was 6. Twenty-three (51%) underwent neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy. The type of esophagectomy was transthoracic in 27 patients (60%), transhiatal in eight (18%), tri-incisional in seven (16%), left thoracoabdominal in one (2%), and transabdominal in one (2%). A mean of 3.2 major complications occurred prior to death (median 2.5, range 1-8), with the most common being pulmonary complications occurring in 30 patients (67%) and anastomotic complications in 20 (44%). The primary underlying cause of death was pulmonary complications and anastomotic complications in 18 patients (40%) each, respectively, abdominal sepsis in three (7%), fatal hemorrhage in three (7%), and pulmonary embolism, stroke and multisystem organ failure in one each (2%), respectively. Patients died a median of 19 days (range 3-98) following esophagectomy. Most patients who died following esophagectomy experienced multiple serious complications rather than a single causative event. Major pulmonary and anastomotic complications were implicated in the vast majority of perioperative mortality, and should remain the focus of efforts to improve clinical outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)645-651
Number of pages7
JournalDiseases of the Esophagus
Issue number7
StatePublished - Sep 1 2012


  • Esophageal cancer
  • Esophagectomy
  • Perioperative mortality
  • Surgical complication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology


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