Esophagectomy includes removal of much of the esophagus (the tube that extends from the back of the throat to the stomach) and nearby lymph nodes. During surgery, a new pathway is made so that food and fluids can travel from your mouth to your stomach. This is done by connecting the upper end of the stomach to the remaining portion of the esophagus.
The most common reason for undergoing an esophagectomy is for the treatment of esophageal cancer. But esophagectomy may be performed to treat other conditions, including:
- Achalasia, in which the esophagus doesn’t function properly
- Pre-cancerous, high-grade dysplasia, such as Barrett’s esophagus
- Severe trauma to the esophagus
Your surgeon will use one of the following three methods for the esophagectomy:
- Minimally invasive: This method includes small incisions in the chest and abdomen, and the use of two scopes: a thoracoscope (to view and operate in the chest) and a laparoscope (to view and operate in the abdomen).
- Transhiatal: Incisions are made in the neck and abdomen. No incision is made in the chest.
- Thoracotomy: An incision is made on the side of the chest between the ribs. Another incision is made in the abdomen. Based on your condition, your surgeon will describe the best option for you.
As with any surgery, there are risks inherent, and you should discuss them with your physician. Some conditions may increase the risk of complications from esophagectomy, including:
- Age older than 60
- Heavy smoking
- Steroid medications
- Poor physical condition
- Weight loss from cancer
Some risks inherent to esophagectomy include:
- Acid reflux
- Injury to vital organs during surgery
- Leakage of contents of esophagus or stomach at the point where the surgeon joins the two