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ISSN: 1731-5530
Kardiochirurgia i Torakochirurgia Polska/Polish Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery
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Intramural esophageal tumors

Mariusz P. Łochowski, Katarzyna Kozak, Marek Rębowski, Józef Kozak

Kardiochirurgia i Torakochirurgia Polska 2016; 13 (4): 319-321
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Intramural esophageal tumors (IET) is group of pathological lesions arising from vessels, nerves, smooth muscles, and mucous glands located beneath unchanged mucous membrane of the esophagus. These lesions may develop into both benign and malignant tumors or developmental disorders such as cysts. The most frequent malignant tumors are gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST) and esophageal cancer. Benign esophageal tumors are rare and account for less than 1% of esophageal tumors [1, 2]. The classification of benign intramural esophageal tumors includes leiomyomas, schwannomas, and lipomas.


The aim of the study is to present 5 years of experience of diagnostics and treatment of IET.

Material and methods

In the years 2011–2015 eleven patients with IET were treated in our clinic: 6 males and 5 females, aged between 28 and 65 years (mean age: 52). The main symptom reported by all patients was dysphagia progressing for several months. Every patient was diagnosed by means of computed tomography of the chest and gastroscopy. Computed tomography (CT) scan revealed various sized tumors (3–10 cm) located in the esophagus. In 1 case the lesion was located in the upper esophagus, in 3 cases the middle esophagus and in the other 7 cases the lower esophagus (Fig. 1). Gastroscopy revealed unchanged mucous tissue elevated by an intramural lesion. In all cases an endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) guided fine needle biopsy was performed. One patient was diagnosed with GIST and 1 with esophageal cancer, whereas in the other cases biopsy results were nondiagnostic. In those cases positron emission tomography (PET) was conducted, but the results also did not establish a final diagnosis (Tab. I).


The patient with GIST was treated with partial resection of the esophagus using the Lewis-Tanner technique. The patient with esophageal cancer was treated with transhiatal excision of the esophagus using the Orringer technique. In the other cases with benign lesions surgical enucleation was conducted except for 1 patient with leiomyoma. In this case esophageal resection by Lewis-Tanner technique was performed. One case of esophageal cyst was treated with radical excision. Postoperatively there were no complications. Diagnosis was established on immunohistochemical examination of the excised lesion (Tab. II). When the diagnosis of malignant tumor was established, the patient was treated with adjuvant chemotherapy.


Introduction of new techniques of chest imaging enabled more frequent diagnosis of intramural lesions of the esophagus. Immunohistochemical examination allowed these lesions to be differentiated. Two percent of all esophageal tumors are leiomyomas. They are the most common benign tumors. They are localized mostly intramurally and can reach considerable sizes [2–4]. Over a half of all patients in this study were diagnosed with leiomyoma.
Schwannoma and GIST have rarely been diagnosed so far due to great similarity to leiomyoma both in clinical course and imaging [2, 5]. Esophageal cysts look distinctly different in EUS and CT scans than solid tumors; therefore they are easier to diagnose [6–8]. Esophageal cysts are often located circularly in the esophagus. It is believed they originate from epithelial cells forming mucous glands located intramurally [1, 9].
The clinical course of patients with IET is distinctive. Major complaints are progressive dysphagia, hemoptysis, dyspnea, and chest pain [2, 6, 10, 11]. In our experience patients were mainly complaining of dysphagia.
Esophageal cysts occur mainly in adults, less frequently in younger patients [6, 8]. Leiomyomas and schwannomas are more common in middle aged patients. Malignant lesions are characteristic for people beyond the age of 50 [5, 9]. Gender has not been associated with frequency of such lesions [4, 5, 9, 11].
The patient is initially diagnosed by means of chest X-ray and gastroscopy. Radiograms frequently detect lumps located in the posterior mediastinum around the esophagus. Gastroscopy often shows elevation of unchanged esophageal mucosa to esophagus lumen [3, 7]. Computed tomography allows one not only to precisely localize the tumor but also to determine its structure and size [2, 3, 10]. Magnetic resonance imaging allows one to differentiate paraesophageal from paravertebral localization of the tumor [7]. The majority of IET are located in the lower third of the esophagus [3–5]. Positron emission tomography is helpful to verify the status of lymph nodes and possible metastases [12]. In our study PET examination did not prove useful in differential diagnosis of IET. In our experience EUS provides the most insight into tumor structure and enables one to perform direct biopsy. In cases of suspected cysts, antibiotic prophylaxis is recommended, because of reported mediastinitis after biopsy of the cyst [6, 7]. In our study EUS biopsy led to the diagnosis in 4/11 (36%) Patients.
The method of treatment depends on the size, type of tumor, its location and general condition of the patient [1, 3, 4]. Malignant lesions are treated with esophageal resection. Benign lesions can be removed by performing enucleation in VATS or thoracotomy [1, 3, 4, 10, 13]. Inability to enucleate or major damage to the esophageal mucosa is an indication for resection of the esophagus. Some authors believe that the biopsy of the tumor performed during EUS may hinder its later separation from the esophageal mucosa [1, 3, 13]. While some recommend observation of benign tumors up to 5 cm in diameter [1, 3], the majority of authors recommend surgical removal of all lesions (including cysts) due to the possibility of their malignant transformation [1, 4, 13].
Intramural esophageal tumors are described on the basis of case reports; therefore generally their natural history is unknown.


Intramural esophageal tumors are a diverse group of neoplasms, both benign and malignant. In any case of IET we should seek a histopathological diagnosis. Treatment of IET depends on the location, size and histopathological type.


Authors report no conflict of interest.


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Copyright: © 2016 Polish Society of Cardiothoracic Surgeons (Polskie Towarzystwo KardioTorakochirurgów) and the editors of the Polish Journal of Cardio-Thoracic Surgery (Kardiochirurgia i Torakochirurgia Polska). This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/), allowing third parties to copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format and to remix, transform, and build upon the material, provided the original work is properly cited and states its license.
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