Preoperative enteral access is not necessary prior to multimodality treatment of esophageal cancer

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Surgical enteral access prior to multimodality treatment for esophageal cancer is controversial as dysphagia is often used for feeding tube referral. We hypothesized that enteral access before neoadjuvant chemoradiation for esophageal cancer provides no benefit compared to that placed during definitive esophagectomy.


Patients undergoing esophagectomy for esophageal malignancy from 2007 − 2014 were retrospectively identified. Clinicopathologic factors were recorded including preoperative enteral access, weight change, nutritional laboratory works, and perioperative complications.


Of 156 identified patients, 99 (63.5%) received neoadjuvant chemoradiation and comprised the study cohort. Fifty (50.5%) underwent enteral access (gastrostomy [14], jejunostomy [32], other [4]; “Access Group”) prior to chemoradiation followed by esophagectomy and were compared to 49 “No-Access” patients who underwent enteral access during esophagectomy. Clinicopathologic variables were similar between cohorts. The Access and No-Access cohorts had similar reported dysphagia (86% vs 75.5%, respectively; P = .2) and mean preesophagectomy serum albumin (3.9 vs 4 gm/dL, respectively; P = .2). Weight loss ± 6-month periesophagectomy was similar between access versus No-Access cohorts (−11.2% vs −15.4%, respectively; P = .1). Weight loss during this period was likewise similar for patients with dysphagia in the Access (−11%) versus No-Access group (−15.2%, P = .1). No difference in complication rates was noted between Access (64%) and No-Access groups (51%, P = .2).


Despite healthcare provider bias, there seems to be no nutritional or perioperative benefit for enteral access before neoadjuvant chemoradiation for esophageal malignancy. Patients with esophageal malignancy should therefore proceed to appropriate neoadjuvant and surgical therapy with enteral access performed during definitive resection or reserved for those with frank obstruction on endoscopy.

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