Acquired tracheoesophageal fistula in critically ill patients

M. Wolf*, E. Segal, A. Yellin, M. Faibel, Y. P. Talmi, J. Kronenberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Acquired benign tracheoesophageal fistula (TEF) is an infrequent complication of prolonged intubation and tracheostomy. Not infrequently, it is associated with severe circumferential malacia of the trachea and a need for concomitant correction of both. Controversy exists as to whether this should be performed in a single-stage or a 2-stage procedure. Four patients with acquired TEF underwent operation in a tertiary referral medical center between 1995 and 1997. The operations were performed through either an anterior (3) or a lateral (1) neck approach. Throe patients underwent closure of the fistula with tracheal resection and anastomosis in a single stage and are doing well. One patient with complete subglottic stenosis underwent closure of the TEF and was planned for tracheal reconstruction in a second stage. This patient died in the early postoperative period. The complications included aspiration of blood leading to pneumonia (2), spontaneously resolving pneumomediastinum (1), subcutaneous emphysema (2), and cardiac arrhythmia (1). Residual fistula, noted in 1 patient, was treated conservatively and resolved spontaneously within several weeks. We conclude that acquired TEF is amenable to repair through a cervical approach. A single-stage correction of the TEF with reconstruction of the trachea is suitable and successful in most patients. Several stages seem justified when concurrent laryngotracheal reconstruction is needed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)731-735
Number of pages5
JournalAnnals of Otology, Rhinology and Laryngology
Issue number8 I
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Prolonged intubation
  • Tracheal surgery
  • Tracheoesophageal fistula
  • Tracheomalacia


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