Algorithmic Approach to Reconstruction of Esophageal/Hypopharyngeal Injuries After Anterior Cervical Spinal Fusion

Abhay Sharma, Sepehr Shabani, Mahnoor Khan, Tapan Padhya, Matthew Mifsud

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Anterior cervical disk fusion (ACDF) is a common surgical approach for the treatment of cervical spine pathology. Esophageal perforations, though uncommon, are a devastating complication of this surgery. The objective of this paper is to assess the success of different treatment approaches for the management of esophageal/pharyngeal injury after ACDF. Methods: Given the absence of prospective trials, the review includes institutional case reports and case series from 1985–2020 in the English language literature. Only cases of esophageal/pharyngeal injury in the setting of anterior cervical hardware were considered for study inclusion. For purposes of this study, treatment success is defined as resumption of oral intake. Results: The database review identified 76 distinct series that meet criteria for study inclusion, with 173 patients available for analysis. A heterogeneous array of treatments was used for the management of pharyngoesophageal injuries after ACDF ranging from observation to complex free tissue reconstruction, with varying degrees of treatment success reported. We identified a number of factors, specifically duration of injury from initial ACDF procedure, which may impact the complexity of treatment required to maximize likelihood of treatment success. Conclusions: Pharyngoesophageal injuries, albeit rare, are a serious and often complex complication after ACDF procedures. We propose a detailed algorithmic approach to guide decision making if faced with this clinical challenge. The huge variability in how these patients are treated emphasizes the potential utility of future multiinstitutional studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e655-e664
JournalWorld Neurosurgery
StatePublished - Nov 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • ACDF
  • Anterior approach
  • Cervical approach
  • Cervical spine surgery
  • Esophageal perforation
  • Hypopharyngeal perforation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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