Role of Spiral and Multislice Computed Tomography in the evaluation of traumatic and spontaneous oesophageal perforation. Our experience.

Elisabetta De Lutio di Castelguidone, Antonio Pinto, Stefanella Merola, Ciro Stavolo, Luigia Romano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


PURPOSE: To assess the role CT in the evaluation of traumatic and spontaneous oesophageal perforation. MATERIALS AND METHODS: From March 2001 to May 2003, we studied 12 patients (7 males and 5 females; age range: 25-66 years, mean age: 43.5 years) with suspected oesophageal perforation due to motor-vehicle accidents (4 cases), stab wound (one case), post-intubation (2 cases), foreign body ingestion (2 cases) and spontaneous (3 cases). Five patients underwent standard chest and cervical radiography; two patients with suspected foreign body ingestion also underwent a gastrografin swallow study; all of the 12 patients underwent CT of the neck, chest and abdomen before and after intravenous, and in four cases oral, administration of contrast material. RESULTS: In 5 patients with cervical, thoracic and abdominal trauma, the CT examination showed the presence of pleuroparenchymal injury (pneumothorax, pleural effusion and subcutaneous emphysema) as well as findings suggestive of oesophageal perforation: peri-oesophageal air (5 cases), peri-oesophageal fluid (4 cases), oesophageal wall thickening (3 cases), oesophageal wall laceration (2 cases) with abnormal course of the nasogastric tube in one of them and extraluminal extravasation of oral contrast material (2 cases). In 2 patients with post-intubation complications, CT showed the presence of a small peri-oesophageal fluid collection containing small gas bubbles in one case, and a gross perioesophageal abscess-like collection in the second case. In the 2 patients with foreign body ingestion, the plain radiography associated with CT showed the presence of a thin metal object in the cervical region (fragment of a dental plate) and a small extraluminal extravasation of gastrografin in one case, whereas in the other case CT showed the presence of a foreign body (chicken bone) in the hypopharynx with oesophageal wall thickening and peri-oesophageal oedema. In the remaining three patients with suspected spontaneous oesophageal perforation, CT showed the presence of a intramural haematoma in one case, oesophageal fluid distension with gas and a small peri-oesophageal fluid effusion (Mallory-Weiss syndrome) in another, and oesophageal rupture (Boerhaave syndrome) in the last case. CONCLUSIONS: Our experience shows that in patients with suspected traumatic and spontaneous oesophageal perforation, standard cervical and chest radiography may suggest a suspected oesophageal perforation in only a small proportion of cases, whereas oral contrast oesophagography has a higher sensitivity. Through the careful analysis of suggestive and specific signs of oesophageal perforation, a correct CT examination enables an accurate and timely diagnosis which significantly affects prognosis and provides valuable indications for treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)252-259
Number of pages8
JournalRadiologia Medica
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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