The surgical anatomy of a (robot-assisted) minimally invasive transcervical esophagectomy

I C L J Filz von Reiterdank, I L Defize, E M de Groot, T Wedel, P P Grimminger, J H Egberts, H Stein, J P Ruurda, R van Hillegersberg, R L A W Bleys

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


BACKGROUND: Transcervical esophagectomy allows for esophagectomy through transcervical access and bypasses the thoracic cavity, thereby eliminating single lung ventilation. A challenging surgical approach demands thorough understanding of the encountered anatomy. This study aims to provide a comprehensive overview of surgical anatomy encountered during the (robot-assisted) minimally invasive transcervical esophagectomy (RACE and MICE).

METHODS: To assess the surgical anatomy of the lower neck and mediastinum, MR images were made of a body donor after, which it was sliced at 24-μm intervals with a cryomacrotome. Images were made every 3 slices resulting in 3.200 images of which a digital 3D multiplanar reconstruction was made. For macroscopic verification, microscopic slices were made and stained every 5 mm (Mallory-Cason). Schematic drawings were made of the 3D reconstruction to demonstrate the course of essential anatomical structures in the operation field and identify anatomical landmarks.

RESULTS: Surgical anatomy 'boxes' of three levels (superior thoracic aperture, upper mediastinum, subcarinal) were created. Four landmarks were identified: (i) the course of the thoracic duct in the mediastinum; (ii) the course of the left recurrent laryngeal nerve; (iii) the crossing of the azygos vein right and dorsal of the esophagus; and (iv) the position of the aortic arch, the pulmonary arteries, and veins.

CONCLUSIONS: The presented 3D reconstruction of unmanipulated human anatomy and schematic 3D 'boxes' provide a comprehensive overview of the surgical anatomy during the RACE or MICE. Our findings provide a useful tool to aid surgeons in learning the complex anatomy of the mediastinum and the exploration of new surgical approaches such as the RACE or MICE.

Original languageEnglish
Article number36
JournalDiseases of the esophagus : official journal of the International Society for Diseases of the Esophagus
Issue number4
Early online date11 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2023


  • Esophageal Neoplasms/surgery
  • Esophagectomy/methods
  • Humans
  • Lymph Node Excision/methods
  • MICE
  • RACE
  • Robotics
  • esophagus
  • mediastinum
  • minimally invasive
  • oncology
  • robot-assisted


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