Arterial injuries pose the greatest early threat to the patient with penetrating neck trauma and esophageal injuries, the greatest late threat. Clinical evaluation reliably identifies 80 percent of esophageal injuries, which, in our opinion, is not adequate. In 118 minimally symptomatic or asymptomatic patients with penetrating neck trauma, the combination of esophagography with esophagoscopy identified all 10 esophageal injuries in 118 patients with penetrating neck trauma. These data suggest that patients with penetrating neck trauma and minimal clinical findings should be initially evaluated with arteriography and esophagography. If the results of arteriography or esophagography are positive, then neck exploration should be performed. If the results of esophagography are equivocal, then rigid esophagoscopy should be performed. If all test results are negative, then observation is justified.
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