To summarize the potential risk factors for postlaryngectomy pharyngocutaneous fistula.
Observational studies in the English-language literature about postlaryngectomy pharyngocutaneous fistula from January 1, 1970, to March 31, 2003. Studies were identified through a MEDLINE search with relevant key words; additional studies were identified through references.
We included studies about the site of primary malignancy, type of procedure, and type of closure; studies had to have been based on individual-level data, with a comparison group for each risk factor evaluated.
Data required to calculate the relative risk of fistula associated with commonly reported risk factors were abstracted from the studies, and a meta-analysis using a random-effects approach was performed to estimate a summary relative risk of fistula for each risk factor. The statistical significance of heterogeneity of effects among studies was assessed.
Of 65 studies identified, 26 met the inclusion criteria. Significant risk factors identified in the pooled analysis included postoperative hemoglobin level less than 12.5 g/dL, prior tracheotomy, preoperative radiotherapy, and preoperative radiotherapy and concurrent neck dissection. The degree of heterogeneity of effects among studies was significant for postoperative hemoglobin level, preoperative radiotherapy, concurrent neck dissection, and comorbid illness. The severity of fistula was greater in patients with a history of radiotherapy.
This meta-analysis identified several significant risk factors for postlaryngectomy pharyngocutaneous fistula. The clinical implications of these findings and the potential sources of heterogeneity of effects among studies are discussed.