Gastro-tracheobronchial fistula (GTF) is a rare but life-threatening complication specifically observed after esophagectomy and reconstruction using posterior mediastinal gastric tube. Ten cases of GTF were encountered in three hospitals in 2000-2009. Their clinicopathological, surgical, and postoperative care are summarized, together with a review of previously reported cases. GTF was classified as anastomotic leakage (n= 5), gastric necrosis (n= 4), and gastric ulcer type (n= 1). The anastomotic leakage type appeared about 2 weeks (postoperative day [POD]: 8-35) after esophagectomy, was located in the cervical or higher thoracic trachea. Breathing and pneumonia were controlled by tracheal tube placed in the distal of fistula. The gastric necrosis type was noted in patients who developed necrosis of the upper part of the gastric tube and abscess formation behind the tracheal wall, at POD 20-36 around the carina, the site of pronounced ischemia. Due to the large fistula around the carina, emergency surgery with muscle patch repair was frequently required for the control of aspiration pneumonia. Patients of the gastric ulcer type had peptic ulcer in the lesser curvature of the gastric tube, which perforated into the right bronchus long after surgery (POD 630). With respect to tracheobronchial factors, preoperative chemoradiation (three cases) and pre-tracheal node dissection (three cases) tended to increase the risk of GTF. Closure of GTF by surgery (muscle patch repair) was successful in four cases and by nonsurgical treatment in three cases. In one case, stable oral intake was achieved by bypass operation without closure of GTF. Hospital death occurred in three cases. Understanding the pathogenesis and treatment options of GTF is important for surgeons who deal with esophageal cancer.
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