A narrative review of anastomotic leak in the Ivor Lewis esophagectomy: expected, accepted, but preventable

Brian Housman, Dong Seok Lee, Raja Flores

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background and Objective: Anastomotic leak (AL) remains a common and highly morbid complication after Ivor Lewis Esophagectomy. Leak is associated with increased morbidity, mortality, strictures and even cancer recurrence. Unfortunately, despite advances in surgical technique and perioperative care, the reported frequency of AL has remained largely unchanged. Methods: A PubMed search for all English-language articles that discuss Ivor Lewis esophagectomy, AL, risk factors, and outcomes was conducted from 1901 to 2023 prioritizing research from randomized trials that evaluated outcomes from patients undergoing esophagectomy. Key Content and Findings: This narrative review will discuss the prevailing literature on AL, risk factors and outcomes with a focus on its relationship to the Ivor Lewis esophagectomy (ILE). In particular, we emphasize that the gastric conduit, as commonly created for most esophagectomy procedures, is inherently vulnerable to ischemia. We will show trends in the literature that have contributed to the high rate of postoperative complications, with a focus on the AL. In addition, we propose that the traditional Ivor Lewis procedure itself is a risk factor for AL. We review a surgical alternative that increases blood supply of the conduit, and is associated with reduced leak, no strictures, and improved surgical outcomes. Conclusions: Multiple factors contribute to AL after esophagectomy; including several current surgical practices. We believe that some of them, especially the commonly accepted approach to the gastric conduit, can be modified to optimize tissue perfusion. With further investigation, we may reduce the incidence of short and long-term anastomotic complications and improve surgical outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2405-2419
Number of pages15
JournalTranslational Cancer Research
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2023


  • Esophageal cancer
  • complications
  • surgery


Dive into the research topics of 'A narrative review of anastomotic leak in the Ivor Lewis esophagectomy: expected, accepted, but preventable'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this