The esophagus (American English) or oesophagus (British English), commonly known as the food pipe or gullet, is an organ in vertebrates through which food passes, aided by peristaltic contractions, from the pharynx to the stomach. The esophagus is a fibromuscular tube, about 25 centimetres long in adults, which travels behind the trachea and heart, passes through the diaphragm and empties into the uppermost region of the stomach. During swallowing, the epiglottis tilts backwards to prevent food from going down the larynx and lungs. The word esophagus is the Greek word οἰσοφάγος oisophagos, meaning “gullet”.
A 66 year old man fell backwards from the first rung of a ladder sustaining a cervical transverse process fracture of C6 vertebral body and a new diagnosis of ankylosing spondylitis. He was taken for surgical fixation, however his oesophagus was discovered entrapped within the fracture at the time of surgery. Despite the severity of the injury, with surgical reduction, fixation and oesophageal exclusion this patient made a full recovery.
This case demonstrates the severity of injury after minor trauma in the context of ankylosing spondylitis, the capacity for full recovery in oesophageal perforations in spinal trauma, and that clinical suspicion of such injuries allows early diagnosis, treatment and reduced complications 1).