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Incidence and predisposing factors of pharyngocutaneous fistula formation after total laryngectomy. Is there a relationship with tumor recurrence?

  • Laryngology
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European Archives of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology and Head & Neck Aims and scope Submit manuscript


Pharyngocutaneous fistula is the most common complication (8.7 to 22%) in the immediate postoperative period following total laryngectomy. The study's objective was to determine the incidence of post-laryngectomy fistulas in patients operated on in our department to establish whether specific factors predispose to fistula formation and to determine whether fistulas and tumor recurrence are related. Between 1992 and 2001, 377 cases of laryngeal carcinoma were diagnosed, and the patients underwent total laryngectomy in our department. Of these patients, 291 had total laryngectomy as the primary management of their disease, while in 86 patients the operation treated recurrence of the disease. In 92 patients, total laryngectomy was combined with radical or eclectic neck dissection. The presence of early postoperative fistula was established in 49 of the 377 patients (13%) studied. The cancerous stage, exact localization of the tumor, degree of differentiation, previous irradiation, patient's age, performance or not of neck dissection or emergency tracheostomy and fitting of voice prostheses were all factors that, after statistical analysis, did not appear to significantly influence the incidence of postoperative fistulas. Factors that did show statistical significance were the histological infiltration of the tumor's surgical margins (11% negative vs. 38% with positive margins) and coexisting early complications. Fistula management was conservative in the majority of cases. The necessary closure period for a fistula varied between 5 and 81 days (mean: 29 days). Postoperative follow-up of all patients revealed that fistulas did not influence the incidence of tumor recurrence. The incidence of postoperative fistulas in our study was 13%. Incomplete excision of the tumor and coexisting complications were related, among other things, to a higher rate of fistula formation. The rate of tumor recurrence after total laryngectomy was not related to the presence of a fistula during the postoperative period.

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Correspondence to Konstantinos D. Markou.

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Markou, K.D., Vlachtsis, K.C., Nikolaou, A.C. et al. Incidence and predisposing factors of pharyngocutaneous fistula formation after total laryngectomy. Is there a relationship with tumor recurrence?. Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol 261, 61–67 (2004).

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