The clinical manifestations, diagnosis, and surgical treatment of 110 cases of oesophageal trauma, admitted under the care of one surgical team between 1949 and 1973, are reviewed. The importance of early diagnosis and an aggressive surgical approach in the management of a potentially lethal situation are stressed. In our opinion, spontaneous rupture of the oesophagus, instrumental perforation, open and closed traumatic lesions, and postoperative anastomotic leaks are, as far as diagnosis and management are concerned, different aspects of the same desperate surgical problem. Oesophageal trauma is accompanied by a high morbidity and mortality rate if diagnosis and treatment are delayed. Perforations of the cervical oesophagus may be treated conservatively. Intrathoracic perforations demand an aggressive surgical appraoch; only exteriorisation followed by reconstruction at a later date offers a reasonable chance to save the life of the patient and ultimately restore continuity.
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