BACKGROUND: Pharyngoesophageal injury during anterior cervical spine surgery is a rare and potentially life-threatening complication; generally it is the result of intraoperative manipulation or hardware erosion and sometimes may be due to weakness of the pharyngoesophageal wall from pre-existing pathologic conditions, such as diabetes, gastritis, or obesity.
CASE DESCRIPTION: We describe the management strategies in patients with an early postoperative hypopharyngeal perforation that occurred after anterior cervical spine surgery without failure of instrumentation, and we present a case treated endoscopically at our institution.
CONCLUSIONS: Appropriate treatment for pharyngoesophageal perforations is controversial and not investigated in detail. There is a lack of prospective studies comparing initial conservative versus surgical approaches to treatment. In addition, endoscopic management is growing as a therapeutic option, but no consensus concerning the indications for an endoscopic approach in the treatment of pharyngoesophageal injury in anterior cervical spine surgery is currently reached. A common theme proposed in the literature is that early recognition and aggressive investigation and treatment are essential to ensure a good outcome. A customized interdisciplinary surgical approach is essential for successful treatment. Use of the transoral endoscopic approach is a useful noninvasive method to treat this rare but potentially devastating complication.