Transhiatal esophagectomy (THE), mostly performed in patients with adenocarcinoma of the esophagus, bears the risk of damage to medlastinal structures because the physician's vision is poor during esophageal dissection. The authors report a new endoscopic technique, which enables microsurgical dissection of the esophagus under visual control, that can be performed simultaneously to the abdominal approach. The clinical results in unselected patients with malignant esophageal disease were compared with those of patients undergoing conventional THE.
Thirty unselected patients (24 men and 6 women; median age, 60 years; age range, 35 to 80 years), mostly with adenocarcinoma of the esophagus, underwent endodissection between April 1991 and July 1992. Thirty patients, who underwent conventional THE between January 1986 and December 1990, were selected using a matched pair algorithm.
Three significant intraoperative complications were recorded during endodissection (one case of mediastinal bleeding; one case of postoperative bleeding; and one case of a lesion of the right main bronchus), and all were managed without further patient morbidity. The mortality rate (30 days) was 6.6% in the endodissection group (vs. 9.9% THE; not significant [NS]). The frequency of postoperative severe pulmonary complications was 13.3% in the endodissection group (vs. 30% in THE; p < 0.05). The rate of recurrent nerve palsy was only 6.6% in the endodissection group (vs. 13.3% in THE; NS).
Endodissection is especially helpful during esophageal dissection at or above the trachea. It allows identification of mediastinal structures and controlled biopsy of mediastinal lymph nodes. This study showed that endodissection eliminates the “blind angle” during conventional THE, prevents recurrent nerve damage, and reduces pulmonary distress during transhiatal esophagectomy.