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Keywords:

  • adenocarcinoma;
  • oesophagectomy;
  • oesophagus

Background:  Oesophageal adenocarcinoma is becoming an increasingly important problem in the Western world. Its incidence is increasing and its prognosis is poor. Because most reports of outcomes following oesophagectomy include patients with squamous cell carcinoma, the outcome following oesophagectomy for adenocarcinoma was evaluated at Flinders Medical Centre, Royal Adelaide Hospital and associated private hospitals.

Methods:  The study group consisted of 121 patients with oesophageal adenocarcinoma or adenocarcinoma of the oesophagogastric junction who underwent an attempted oesophagectomy between 1985 and 2003. Thirty-two of these patients underwent surgery before 1999 at the Royal Adelaide Hospital. These patients were reviewed retrospectively. In 1999 the recording of details of all patients undergoing oesophagectomy was commenced on a prospectively maintained database. From 1999 to 2003, 89 patients underwent oesophagectomy at either the Royal Adelaide Hospital, Flinders Medical Centre or associated private hospitals. Overall, there were 101 male and 20 female patients, with a median age at surgery of 63 years (range 36−80). Survival data were available for all patients. The present study analysed factors affecting survival in these patients.

Results:  Tumours were located entirely within the oesophagus in 83 patients, and involved the gastro-oesophageal junction in 38. Eighty-nine underwent an Ivor Lewis oesophagectomy; 20, a cervico-thoraco-abdominal oesophagectomy; nine, a cervico-abdominal oesophagectomy (with either transhiatal or blunt oesophageal dissection); and four procedures were abandoned. Sixty-four per cent of patients had evidence of Barrett's oesophagus in the resection specimen. The overall resection rate was 97%. Significant postoperative morbidity occurred in 36%, and the in-hospital mortality rate was 5% (30-day mortality 3%). The overall 1-year survival rate was 80%, and the 5-year survival rate (including surgical deaths) was 20%. Poorer survival was associated with advanced T stage, and lymph node metastasis. The outcome following resection of tumours confined to the oesophagus was similar to that for tumours involving the gastro-oesophageal junction. Since 2000, the number of oesophagectomies performed in men for adenocarcinoma has doubled, whereas the number performed in women and for squamous cell carcinoma has remained constant.

Conclusions:  Oesophagectomy can be performed for patients with adenocarcinoma with an acceptable perioperative mortality rate. However, the longer term outlook following oesophagectomy for most patients with adenocarcinoma remains poor. Nevertheless, early stage tumours are associated with much better survival. For this reason, efforts to diagnose this disease at an early stage are likely to offer the best chance for improving outcomes.