What is Boerhaave's syndrome?
Esophageal rupture (also known as Boerhaave's syndrome) is a rupture of the esophageal wall. 56% of esophageal perforations are iatrogenic, usually due to medical instrumentation such as an endoscopy or paraesophageal surgery. In contrast, the term Boerhaave's syndrome is reserved for the 10% of esophageal perforations which occur due to vomiting.
Spontaneous perforation of the esophagus most commonly results from a full-thickness tear in the esophageal wall due to a sudden increase in intraesophageal pressure combined with relatively negative intrathoracic pressure caused by straining or vomiting (effort rupture of the esophagus or Boerhaave's syndrome). Other causes of spontaneous perforation include caustic ingestion, pill esophagitis, Barrett's esophagus, infectious ulcers in patients with AIDS, and following dilation of esophageal strictures.
In most cases of Boerhaave's syndrome, the tear occurs at the left postero-lateral aspect of the distal esophagus and extends for several centimeters. The condition is associated with high morbidity and mortality and is fatal without treatment. The occasionally nonspecific nature of the symptoms may contribute to a delay in diagnosis and a poor outcome. Spontaneous effort rupture of the cervical esophagus, leading to localized cervical perforation, may be more common than previously recognized and has a generally benign course. Preexisting esophageal disease is not a prerequisite for esophageal perforation but it contributes to increased mortality
This condition was first documented by the 18th-century physician Herman Boerhaave, after whom it is named. A related condition is Mallory-Weiss syndrome.