Boerhaave syndrome surgery

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1] Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Mohamed Diab, MD [2], Feham Tariq, MD [3], Ajay Gade MD[4]]


Most physicians advice surgical intervention if the diagnosis is made within the first 24 hours after perforation. The main objectives of surgical management in patients undergoing primary repair are debridement of non-viable esophagus and repair of the perforation. The surgical procedure opted depends on the general condition of the patient, level of intrathoracic contamination and eligibility of the esophagus for primary repair.


Objectives of surgical management

The main objectives of surgical management in patients undergoing primary repair are as follows:[1][2][3]

Surgical techniques

The operative procedure opted for the repair of esophagus is influenced by the following factors:

  • General condition of the patient
  • Level of intrathoracic contamination
  • Eligibility of the esophagus for primary repair

The following surgical techniques are used to perform a repair of a perforation of the esophagus:

  • Devitalized tissue is debrided from the perforation.
  • Longitudinal incision of the muscular layer and along the muscle fibers superior and inferior to the perforation to expose the entire extent of the mucosal injury.
  • The mucosa is closed with absorbable sutures and the muscularis layer is closed with non-absorbable sutures.
  1. Primary repair
  2. Repair over T-tube
  3. Debridement and drainage
  4. Esophageal exclusion (cervical esophagostomy, distal esophageal transection ± esophagectomy).
  • Large-bore apical and basal intercostal chest drains are inserted in all patients at the initial operation
  • A trans-hiatal drain is inserted in patients undergoing a pure trans-hiatal approach without thoracotomy


The following videos demonstrate the step by step procedure of surgical management of boerhaave syndrome. {{#ev:youtube|GkJnyGvFxU8}}

E-Vac therapy


Postoperative management

  • Nutritional support until oral feedings can be initiated and sustained
  • IV broad spectrum antibiotics typically for 7 to 10 days
  • A contrast esophagram is done on postoperative day seven if the patient is stable
  • Drains remain in place until the patient is tolerating oral feedings and without evidence of a leak


Endoscopic treatment for an esophageal perforation should be considered in patients who are unlikely to tolerate surgery[4]


  1. Morales-Angulo C, Rodríguez Iglesias J, Mazón Gutiérrez A, Rubio Suárez A, Rama J (1999). "[Diagnosis and treatment of cervical esophageal perforation in adults]". Acta Otorrinolaringol Esp. 50 (2): 142–6. PMID 10217689.
  2. Salo JA, Isolauri JO, Heikkilä LJ, Markkula HT, Heikkinen LO, Kivilaakso EO; et al. (1993). "Management of delayed esophageal perforation with mediastinal sepsis. Esophagectomy or primary repair?". J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 106 (6): 1088–91. PMID 8246543.
  3. Mao JC, Kayali FM, Dworkin JP, Stachler RJ, Mathog RH (2009). "Conservative management of iatrogenic esophageal perforation in head and neck cancer patients with esophageal stricture". Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 140 (4): 505–11. doi:10.1016/j.otohns.2008.12.052. PMID 19328338.
  4. Schweigert M, Beattie R, Solymosi N, Booth K, Dubecz A, Muir A, Moskorz K, Stadlhuber RJ, Ofner D, McGuigan J, Stein HJ (2013). "Endoscopic stent insertion versus primary operative management for spontaneous rupture of the esophagus (Boerhaave syndrome): an international study comparing the outcome". Am Surg. 79 (6): 634–40. PMID 23711276.

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