The purpose of this study was to directly compare CT with fluoroscopy for the diagnosis of occult anastomotic leak following oesophagectomy. Patients undergoing oesophagectomy and gastric conduit formation for the treatment of oesophageal cancer were eligible for inclusion. Imaging was performed 6–8 days post-operatively. Patients underwent multislice CT examination of the chest and abdomen with a bolus of oral contrast, followed by fluoroscopic water-soluble contrast swallow (with subsequent use of barium if this was normal). The studies were reviewed by a consultant radiologist, who was blinded to the results of the other modality. Images were reported as showing “no leak”, “possible leak” or “definite leak”. The presence of mediastinal gas or fluid or extraluminal contrast at CT was recorded. The clinical outcome after reinstituition of oral intake was used as a reference standard. Patient preference for modality was recorded. 52 patients were recruited. Four were found to have leak on CT and fluoroscopy. 11 had possible leak at CT, but normal fluoroscopy: 2 of these had a leak confirmed later, whereas 9 had no leak. 37 had normal CT and fluoroscopy findings, and remained clinically well. The sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative predictive values were 100%, 80%, 40% and 100%, respectively, for CT, and 67%, 100%, 100% and 96%, respectively, for fluoroscopy. The positive predictive value of mediastinal air, air/fluid and extraluminal contrast were 25%, 75% and 50%, respectively. 35 patients found CT more tolerable. In conclusion, CT was better tolerated and more sensitive but less specific than fluoroscopy for detecting occult anastomotic leak.
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