Esophagectomy - open


An esophagectomy is surgery to remove part or all of the esophagus, the tube that moves food from your throat to your stomach. After it is removed, the esophagus is rebuilt from part of your stomach or part of your large intestine.

Most of the time, esophagectomy is done to treat cancer of the esophagus.

Alternative Names

Trans-hiatal esophagectomy; Trans-thoracic esophagectomy; En bloc esophagectomy; Removal of the esophagus - open; Ivor-Lewis operation


There are many ways to do this surgery. Talk with your doctor about what type of surgery is best for you. It will depend on where in your esophagus the cancer is, how much it has spread, and how healthy you are.

Laparoscopy is one way to do this surgery. A laparoscope is a tiny camera that is inserted into your belly through a small surgical cut. See also: Esophagectomy - minimally invasive

Open surgery is another way to do an esophagectomy. Two ways to do an esophagectomy using open surgery are:

Trans-hiatal esophagectomy:

Trans-thoracic esophagectomy:

Your surgeon may also examine and do a biopsy of the lymph nodes in your belly to see if the cancer has spread to them.

En bloc esophagectomy is another type of esophagectomy. It is the most invasive of these procedures.

Most of these operations take about 3 - 6 hours.

Why the Procedure Is Performed

The most common reason for removing part, or all, of your esophagus is to treat cancer. You may also have radiation therapy or chemotherapy before or after surgery.

Surgery to remove the lower part of your esophagus may also be done to treat:


Esophagectomy is major surgery and has many possible risks. Some of them are serious. You should discuss these risks with your surgeon.

The risks from this surgery, or for problems after surgery, may be greater than normal if:

Risks for any anesthesia are:

Risks for any surgery are:

Risks for this surgery are:

Before the Procedure

You will have many doctor visits and medical tests before you have this surgery. Some of these are:

If you are a smoker, you should stop smoking several weeks before the surgery. Your doctor or nurse can help.

Always tell your doctor or nurse:

During the week before your surgery:

On the day of your surgery:

After the Procedure

Most people stay in the hospital for 7 to 14 days after an esophagectomy. How long you stay will depend on what type of surgery you had. You may spend 1 to 3 days in the intensive care unit (ICU) right after surgery.

You will stay in the hospital for 10 to 14 days after en bloc esophagectomy

During your hospital stay, you will:

Outlook (Prognosis)

Many people recover well from this surgery and can eat a fairly normal diet after they recover. Talk with your doctor about the best way to treat cancer.

Esophagectomy is best performed at a center that routinely does this type of surgery.


Maish M. Esophagus. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2008:chap 41.

National Cancer Institute. Esophageal Cancer Treatment PDQ. Updated 01/24/2011.

Review Date: 1/26/2011
Reviewed By: Shabir Bhimji, MD, PhD, Specializing in General Surgery, Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery, Midland, TX. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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