Management of external penetrating injuries into the hypopharyngeal- cervical esophageal funnel

Robert B. Stanley, William B. Armstrong, Bruce L. Fetterman, Maise L. Shindo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Objective: To compare outcomes related to observation versus exploration for the hypopharynx and the cervical esophagus as the site of proven external penetrating injuries. Methods: The records of 70 patients (47 with hypopharyngeal and 23 with cervical esophageal wounds) were retrospectively reviewed. Results: No patient, observed or explored, who sustained a penetration into the hypopharynx above the level of the tips of the arytenoid cartilages of the larynx developed a complication. However, 22% of the patients with a hypopharyngeal injury below this level and 39% of patients with a cervical esophageal injury developed either a deep neck infection that required drainage or a postsurgical salivary fistula. Conclusions: Overall, the consequences of an external penetrating injury become more serious in the descending levels of the funnel formed by the hypopharynx and cervical esophagus. Injuries located in the upper portion of the hypopharynx can be routinely managed without surgical intervention. Neck exploration and adequate drainage of the deep neck spaces are, however, mandatory for all penetrating injuries into the cervical esophagus and most injuries into the lower portion of the hypopharynx.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)675-679
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Trauma - Injury, Infection and Critical Care
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Cervical esophagus
  • Hypopharynx
  • Penetrating trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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