Closure of Tracheoesophageal Fistulas With Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy

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In patients who have esophageal cancer with a tracheoesophageal fistula, chemotherapy and radiotherapy are usually contraindicated because it is thought to enlarge the fistula. The records of 50 patients who had esophageal cancer and received simultaneous chemotherapy and radiotherapy from January 1992 to January 1997 were evaluated in the Medical Oncology Section of the Veterans Administration Medical Center, Washington, D.C. All patients were staged radiographically and endoscopically. Four patients developed a tracheoesophageal fistula while receiving treatment. One patient developed a fistula before treatment and another patient developed a fistula after treatment. Closure of the tracheoesophageal fistulas was achieved in 4 of 5 patients who responded to therapy and in those who developed fistulas before or during therapy. One of the patients whose fistula did not close died during therapy, whereas the other who developed a fistula after therapy underwent stenting. This finding indicates that development of a tracheoesophageal fistula is not a contraindication to chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and patients who are responsive to therapy may have closure of their fistulas.

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