This study is a retrospective database query to identify all anterior spinal approaches.Objectives:
The objectives were to assess all patients with pharyngocutaneous fistulas (PCFs) after anterior cervical spine surgery.Summary of Background Data:
Patients with the diagnosis of PCFs were treated at the University of Heidelberg Spine Medical Center, Spinal Cord Injury Unit and Department of Otolaryngology (Germany), between 2005 and 2011.Methods:
We conducted a retrospective study on 5 patients with PCF after anterior cervical spine surgery between 2005 and 2011 and analyzed their therapy management and outcome on the basis of the radiologic data and patient charts.Results:
Upon presentation, 4 patients were paraplegic. Two patients had PCF arising from 1 piriform sinus, 2 patients had PCF arising from the posterior pharyngeal wall and piriform sinus combined, and 1 patient had PCF arising only from the posterior pharyngeal wall. Two patients previously underwent unsuccessful surgical repair elsewhere and 1 patient underwent a prior radiation therapy. In 3 patients, speech and swallowing could be completely restored. Two patients died, both of whom were paraplegic. The patients were needed to undergo an average of 2 or 3 procedures for complete functional recovery of primary closure with various vascularized regional flaps and refining laser procedures supplemented with the negative pressure wound therapy wherever needed.Conclusions:
On the basis of our experience, we are able to provide a treatment algorithm that indicates that chronic, as opposed to acute, fistulas require a primary surgical closure combined with a vascularized flap that should be accompanied by the immediate application of a negative pressure wound therapy. We also conclude that particularly in paraplegic patients suffering from this complication the risk for a fatal outcome is substantial.