Utility of routine oral contrast study for detecting postesophagectomy anastomotic leak – a systematic review and meta-analysis Academic Article uri icon


  • SUMMARY Oral contrast studies are used to detect anastomotic leak (AL) postesophagectomy. However, recent evidence suggests oral contrast studies have low sensitivity in detecting ALs, and their false positive results can lead to unnecessary prolonged hospital stay. The objective of this study was to determine if oral contrast studies should be used routinely post-esophagectomy for cancer. A systematic literature search was conducted for studies published between January 1990 and June 2018. Data extracted for analyses included type of esophagectomy, operative morbidity (such as AL and pneumonia), mortality rates, timing of contrast study, and type of oral contrast used. The sensitivity, specificity, and positive and negative predictive values of routine oral contrast studies to detect AL were calculated using the aforementioned variables. Two hundred and forty-seven studies were reviewed with 16 studies included in the meta-analysis. Postoperative oral contrast study was performed in 94.0% of cases between day 5 and 7. The rates of early and delayed leaks were 2.4% (1.8%–3.3%) and 2.8% (1.8%–4.4%), respectively. Routine contrast studies have a sensitivity and specificity of 0.44 (0.32–0.57) and 0.98 (0.95–0.99), respectively. Analysis of covariates revealed that sensitivity is reduced in centers with a higher volume of cases (greater than 15 per year: 0.50 [0.34–0.75; p = 0.0008]) and specificity was higher in centers with a lower leak rate. Given its poor sensitivity and inability to detect early/delayed AL, oral contrast study should be used selectively with endoscopy and/or computerized tomography scan to assess surgical anastomoses following esophagectomy.

publication date

  • 2019