The complication of oesophagopleural fistula is described in eight of 1,389 patients (0·5%) who underwent pneumonectomy for carcinoma of the bronchus. All the patients had a right pneumonectomy performed and seven of the eight patients developed a bronchopleural fistula before developing an oesophageal fistula. The complication appeared between two weeks and 22 months after pneumonectomy. All the fistulae occurred on the right side; three were at the level of the bronchial stump and five were within 5 cm below the stump. The cause of the fistula was thought to be the development of a peribronchial abscess which ruptured into the oesophagus. The complication was diagnosed by the presence of food particles on the dressings in those patients with chest drains in situ. It was confirmed by Gastrografin swallow. The size of the fistulae varied between 3 and 8 mm.
Successful immediate surgical closure of the fistula was accomplished in three patients. Feeding was continued using a gastrostomy.
Five patients unfit for surgery and treated by palliative measures died.
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