• enhanced recovery programs;
  • esophageal cancer;
  • esophagectomy


The aim of this systematic review and pooled analysis is to determine the effect of enhanced recovery programs (ERP) on clinical outcome measures following esophagectomy. Medline, Embase, trial registries, conference proceedings, and reference lists were searched for trials comparing clinical outcome from esophagectomy followed by a conventional pathway with esophagectomy followed by an ERP. Primary outcomes were the incidence of postoperative mortality, anastomotic leak and pulmonary complications, and secondary outcomes were length of hospital stay and the incidence of 30-day readmission. Nine studies were included comprising 1240 patients, 661 patients underwent esophagectomy followed conventional pathway, and 579 patients underwent ERP. Utilization of ERP was associated with a reduction in the incidence of anastomotic leak (12.2–8.3%; pooled odds ratios = 0.61; 95% confidence interval = 0.39 to 0.96; P = 0.03) and pulmonary complications (29.1–19.6%; pooled odds ratios = 0.52; 95% confidence interval = 0.36 to 0.77; P = 0.001) and length of hospital stay, and no significant change in postoperative mortality or readmission rate. There was significant variation in the design of enhanced recovery protocols, surgical approach, and utilization of neoadjuvant therapies between the studies that are important confounding variables to be considered. This study suggests a benefit to the utilization of ERP following esophagectomy. The pathways provide a template for all medical personnel interacting with these patients in order to provide incremental changes in all aspects of clinical care that translates into global improvements seen in postoperative outcomes.