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Imaging the oesophagus after penetrating cervical trauma using water-soluble contrast alone: simple, cost-effective and accurate


Aim: This audit aims to gauge the safety and efficacy of iso-oncotic water-soluble contrast media as the sole imaging evaluation of the distal pharynx and cervical oesophagus after penetrating cervical trauma.

Methods: A retrospective audit was performed over a 4-year period of all patients with penetrating cervical trauma to zones 1 and 2 of the neck who were subjected to imaging evaluation as part of a selective non-operative management policy for penetrating cervical trauma. The outcome was reviewed and the sensitivity, specificity and predictive values of the investigation were determined. The surgical management of identified injuries is also described.

Results: Four hundred and sixty-five contrast studies were included with 11 studies positive for pathology (9 injuries, 2 incidental findings). Surgery was undertaken in 4 patients with cervical oesophageal injuries and conservative management was carried out in 5 cases of distal pharyngeal injury. No missed injuries and no significant adverse events were identified during the study period.

Conclusion: A contrast study of the oesophagus with water-soluble iso-oncotic contrast media as the sole diagnostic imaging modality is safe (avoiding the risk of aspiration pneumonia), reliable (identifying all injuries) and cost-efficient (avoiding the need for additional expensive investigations) in cases of penetrating cervical trauma.

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