Operative Management of Aerodigestive Injuries: Improved Survival Over two Decades

Patrick F. Walker*, Samuel M. Galvagno, Ashutosh Sachdeva, David V. Feliciano, Thomas M. Scalea, James V. O’Connor

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Non-iatrogenic aerodigestive injuries are infrequent but potentially fatal. We hypothesize that advances in management and adoption of innovative therapies resulted in improved survival. Methods: Trauma registry review at a university Level 1 center from 2000 to 2020 that identified adults with aerodigestive injuries requiring operative or endoluminal intervention. Demographics, injuries, operations, and outcomes were abstracted. Univariate analysis was performed, P <.05 was statistically significant. Results: 95 patients had 105 injuries: 68 tracheal and 37 esophageal (including 10 combined). Mean age 30.9 (± 14), 87.4% male, 82.1% penetrating, and 28.4% with vascular injuries. Median ISS, chest AIS, admission BP, Shock Index, and lactate were 26 (16-34), 4 (3-4), 132 (113-149) mmHg,.8 (.7-1.1), and 3.1 (2.4-5.6) mmol/L, respectively. There were 46 cervical and 22 thoracic airway injuries; 5 patients in extremis required preoperative ECMO. 66 airway injuries were surgically repaired and 2 definitively managed with endobronchial stents. There were 24 cervical, 11 thoracic, 2 abdominal esophageal injuries—all repaired surgically. Combined tracheoesophageal injuries were individually managed and buttressed. 4 airway complications were successfully managed, and 11 esophageal complications managed conservatively, stented, or resected. Mortality was 9.6%, half from intraoperative hemorrhage. Specific mortality: tracheobronchial 8.8%, esophageal 10.8%, and combined 20%. Mortality was significantly associated with higher ISS (P =.01), vascular injury (P =.007), blunt mechanism (P =.01), bronchial injury (P =.01), and years 2000-2010 (P =.03), but not combined tracheobronchial injury. Conclusion: Mortality is associated with several variables, including vascular trauma and years 2000-2010. The use of ECMO and endoluminal stents in highly selected patients and institutional experience may account for 97.8% survival over the past decade.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5982-5987
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Surgeon
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Esophagus/foregut
  • thoracic surgery
  • trauma


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