Management of esophageal and pharyngeal perforation in the newborn infant

Dana E Johnson, John E Foker, D. P. Munson, A. Nelson, P. Athinarayanan, T. R. Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Perforation of the esophagus or pharynx may occur during placement of endotracheal or nasogastric tubes in the newborn infant. Controversy exists, however, whether medical or surgical therapy is better in the management of these perforations. Nine patients who had esophageal or pharyngeal perforation in the neonatal period and were treated medically with antibiotics, nutritional support and closed chest-tube drainage of pneumothoraces are described. All perforations healed without surgical repair. No mortaility or morbidity occurred secondary to these perforations. This study, together with a review of the 73 patients described in the literature, indicate that perforations of the pharynx and esophagus can be satisfactorily managed medically. There is no apparent advantage to routine early surgical exploration. Only complications such as mediastinitis and mediastinal mass formation seen to require surgical treatment. Medical therapy with close observation for signs of sepsis and/or mediastinal changes will enable most newborn infants to avoid an operation and will identify those infants for whom surgery is definitely indicated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)592-596
Number of pages5
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 29 1982


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