Risk Factors for Complications After Esophageal Cancer Resection: A Prospective Population-Based Study in Sweden

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To identify risk factors for complications after resection for esophageal or cardia cancer.

Summary Background Data:

Knowledge of risk factors for complications after esophageal resection for cancer is sparse, and prospective population-based studies are lacking.


A prospective, nationwide, population-based study was conducted in Sweden in April 2, 2001 through December 31, 2003. Details about tumor characteristics and stage, surgical procedures, and complications were collected prospectively from the Swedish Esophageal and Cardia Cancer register. Medical records and specific charts from surgical procedures, histopathology reports, and intensive care units were continuously scrutinized. Multivariable logistic regression analyses were used to estimate relative risks and their 95% confidence intervals.


Among 275 patients undergoing surgical resection for esophageal or cardia cancer, 122 (44%) had at least one predefined complication. Operation by low-volume surgeons (<5 operations annually) were followed by more anastomotic leakages than those by surgeons with higher volume (odds ratio, 7.86; 95% confidence interval, 2.13–29.00). Hand-sewn and stapled anastomoses did not differ regarding risk of anastomotic leakage. Among cardia cancer patients, transthoracic approach resulted in more respiratory complications compared with transhiatal (abdominal only) approach (odds ratio, 4.78; 95% confidence interval, 1.66–13.76). Older age, adjuvant oncologic therapy, and higher preoperative bleeding volume nonsignificantly increased the risks of complications, while no influence of sex or tumor stage was found.


High-volume esophageal surgeons seem to lower the risk of anastomotic leakage. More large-scale studies are warranted to establish the roles of the other potentially important risk factors suggested in our study.

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