BACK TOTOP Browse A-ZSearchBrowse A-ZABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ0-9 E-mail FormEmail ResultsName:Email address:Recipients Name:Recipients address:Message: Print-FriendlyBookmarksbookmarks-menuEsophageal perforationPerforation of the esophagus; Boerhaave syndromeAn esophageal perforation is a hole in the esophagus. The esophagus is the tube food passes through as it goes from the mouth to the stomach. Causes When there is a hole in the esophagus, the contents of the esophagus can pass into the surrounding area in the chest (mediastinum). This often results in infection of the mediastinum (mediastinitis).MediastinitisMediastinitis is swelling and irritation (inflammation) of the chest area between the lungs (mediastinum). This area contains the heart, large blood...ImageRead Article Now Book Mark Article The most common cause of an esophageal perforation is injury during a medical procedure. However, the use of flexible instruments has made this problem uncommon.The esophagus may also become perforated as the result of:A tumor Gastric reflux with ulceration Gastric refluxGastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition in which the stomach contents leak backward from the stomach into the esophagus (food pipe). F...ImageRead Article Now Book Mark Article UlcerationAn ulcer is a crater-like sore on the skin or mucous membrane. Ulcers form when the top layers of skin or tissue have been removed. They can occur ...ImageRead Article Now Book Mark Article Previous surgery on the esophagus Swallowing a foreign object or caustic chemicals, such as household cleaners, disk batteries, and battery acid Trauma or injury to the chest and esophagus Violent vomiting (Boerhaave syndrome)Less common causes include injuries to the esophagus area (blunt trauma) and injury to the esophagus during surgery of another organ near the esophagus. Symptoms The main symptom is pain when the problem first occurs.A perforation in the middle or lower most part of the esophagus may cause:Swallowing problems Chest pain Breathing problems Exams and Tests Your health care provider will look for:Fast breathing Fever Low blood pressure Low blood pressureLow blood pressure occurs when blood pressure is much lower than normal. This means the heart, brain, and other parts of the body do not get enough ...Read Article Now Book Mark Article Rapid heart rate Neck pain or stiffness and air bubbles underneath the skin if the perforation is in the top part of the esophagusYou may have a chest x-ray to look for:Chest x-rayA chest x-ray is an x-ray of the chest, lungs, heart, large arteries, ribs, and diaphragm.ImageRead Article Now Book Mark Article Air in the soft tissues of the chest Fluid that has leaked from the esophagus into the space around the lungs Collapsed lung -- X-rays taken after you drink a non-harmful dye can help pinpoint the location of the perforationYou may also have a chest CT scan to look for an abscess in the chest or esophageal cancer.Chest CT scanA chest CT (computed tomography) scan is an imaging method that uses x-rays to create cross-sectional pictures of the chest and upper abdomen....ImageRead Article Now Book Mark Article AbscessAn abscess is a collection of pus in any part of the body. In most cases, the area around an abscess is swollen and inflamed.ImageRead Article Now Book Mark Article Treatment You may need surgery. Surgery will depend on the location and size of the perforation. If surgery is needed, it is best done within 24 hours.Treatment may include:Fluids given through a vein (IV) IV antibiotics to prevent or treat infection Draining of fluid around the lungs with a chest tube Mediastinoscopy to remove fluid that has collected in the area behind the breastbone and between the lungs (mediastinum)MediastinoscopyMediastinoscopy with biopsy is a procedure in which a lighted instrument (mediastinoscope) is inserted in the space in the chest between the lungs (m...ImageRead Article Now Book Mark Article A stent may be placed in the esophagus if only a small amount of fluid has leaked. This may help avoid surgery.A perforation in the uppermost (neck region) part of the esophagus may heal by itself if you do not eat or drink for a period of time. In this case, you will need a stomach feeding tube or another way to get nutrients.Surgery is often needed to repair a perforation in the middle or bottom portions of the esophagus. Depending on the extent of the problem, the leak may be treated by simple repair or by removing the esophagus. Outlook (Prognosis) The condition can progress to shock, or even death, if untreated.ShockShock is a life-threatening condition that occurs when the body is not getting enough blood flow. Lack of blood flow means the cells and organs do n...ImageRead Article Now Book Mark Article Outlook is good if the problem is found within 24 hours of it occurring. Most people survive when surgery is done within 24 hours. Survival rate goes down if you wait longer. Possible Complications Complications may include:Permanent damage to the esophagus (narrowing or stricture) Abscess formation in and around the esophagus Infection in and around the lungs When to Contact a Medical Professional Tell your provider right away if you develop the problem when you are already in the hospital.Go to the emergency room or call 911 or the local emergency number if:You have recently had surgery or a tube placed in the esophagus and you have chest pain, problems swallowing, or breathing. You have another reason to suspect that you may have esophageal perforation. Prevention These injuries, although uncommon, are hard to prevent.Open ReferencesReferencesLambright E. Management of esophageal perforation. In: Cameron AM, Cameron JL, eds. Current Surgical Therapy. 13th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:78-80.Raja AS. Thoracic trauma. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 38.AllVideoImagesTogDigestive system - illustration The esophagus, stomach, large and small intestine, aided by the liver, gallbladder and pancreas convert the nutritive components of food into energy and break down the non-nutritive components into waste to be excreted.Digestive systemillustrationDigestive system organs - illustration The digestive system organs in the abdominal cavity include the liver, gallbladder, stomach, small intestine and large intestine.Digestive system organsillustrationDigestive system - illustration The esophagus, stomach, large and small intestine, aided by the liver, gallbladder and pancreas convert the nutritive components of food into energy and break down the non-nutritive components into waste to be excreted.Digestive systemillustrationDigestive system organs - illustration The digestive system organs in the abdominal cavity include the liver, gallbladder, stomach, small intestine and large intestine.Digestive system organsillustration Tests for Esophageal perforation Esophageal manometryRelated Information Mediastinitis(Condition) Review Date: 10/27/2020 Reviewed By: Michael M. Phillips, MD, Clinical Professor of Medicine, The George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, DC. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- © 1997- All rights reserved. A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and Google Chrome browser.Content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and Google Chrome browser.