This is a recommended management algorithm from the Western Trauma Association addressing the diagnostic evaluation and management of esophageal injuries in adult patients. Because there is a paucity of published prospective randomized clinical trials that have generated Class I data, the recommendations herein are based primarily on published observational studies and expert opinion of Western Trauma Association members. The algorithms and accompanying comments represent a safe and sensible approach that can be followed at most trauma centers. We recognize that there will be patient, personnel, institutional, and situational factors that may warrant or require deviation from the recommended algorithm. We encourage institutions to use this guideline to formulate their own local protocols.
The algorithm contains letters at decision points; the corresponding paragraphs in the text elaborate on the thought process and cite pertinent literature. The annotated algorithm is intended to (a) serve as a quick bedside reference for clinicians; (b) foster more detailed patient care protocols that will allow for prospective data collection and analysis to identify best practices; and (c) generate research projects to answer specific questions concerning decision making in the management of adults with esophageal injuries.