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Boerhaave syndrome

Boerhaave syndrome
Classification & external resources
ICD-10 K22.3
ICD-9 530.4
DiseasesDB 9168
eMedicine med/233 
MeSH D004939

Boerhaave syndrome (also called Boerhaave's syndrome), or Esophageal perforation, is rupture of the esophageal wall. It is most often caused by excessive vomiting in eating disorders such as bulimia although it may rarely occur in extremely forceful coughing or other situations, such as obstruction by food. It can cause pneumomediastinum and/or mediastinitis (air or inflammation of the mediastinum) and sepsis.

This condition was first documented by the 18th-century physician Herman Boerhaave, after whom it is named.[1][2]



It typically occurs after forceful vomiting. Boerhaave syndrome is a transmural perforation (full-thickness; a hole) of the esophagus, distinct from Mallory-Weiss syndrome, a nontransmural esophageal tear also associated with vomiting. Because it is generally associated with vomiting, Boerhaave syndrome usually is not truly spontaneous. However, the term is useful for distinguishing it from iatrogenic perforation, which accounts for 85-90% of cases of esophageal rupture, typically as a complication of an endoscopic procedure, feeding tube, or unrelated surgery. Boerhaave syndrome is often seen as a complication of Bulimia.

It is associated with "Meckler's triad".[3][4]


Esophageal rupture in Boerhaave syndrome is thought to be the result of a sudden rise in internal esophageal pressure produced during vomiting, as a result of neuromuscular incoordination causing failure of the cricopharyngeus muscle (a sphincter within the esophagus) to relax. The syndrome is commonly associated with the consumption of excessive food and/or alcohol.

The most common anatomical location of the tear in Boerhaave syndrome is at left posterolateral wall of the lower third of the esophagus, 2-3 cm before the stomach.[5]


Its treatment includes immediate antibiotic therapy to prevent mediastinitis and sepsis, surgical repair of the perforation,[6] and if there is significant fluid loss it should be replaced with IV fluid therapy since oral rehydration is, obviously, not possible.


  1. ^ synd/2800 at Who Named It
  2. ^ H. Boerhaave. Atrocis, nec descripti prius, morbis historia: Secundum medicae artis leges conscripta. Lugduni Batavorum; Ex officine Boutesteniana. 1724.
  3. ^ S. Herman, H. Shanies, H. Singh & M. Warshawsky: "Spontaneous Esophageal Rupture: Boerhaave's Syndrome," pages 177-182. Clinical Pulmonary Medicine 10(3), May 2003 abstract
  4. ^ Yang ST, Devanand A, Tan KL, Eng PC (2003). "Boerhaave's syndrome presenting as a right-sided pleural effusion". Ann. Acad. Med. Singap. 32 (3): 415–7. PMID 12854388.
  5. ^ Korn O, Oñate JC, López R (2007). "Anatomy of the Boerhaave syndrome". Surgery 141 (2): 222–8. doi:10.1016/j.surg.2006.06.034. PMID 17263979.
  6. ^ Matsuda A, Miyashita M, Sasajima K, et al (2006). "Boerhaave syndrome treated conservatively following early endoscopic diagnosis: a case report". Journal of Nippon Medical School = Nihon Ika Daigaku zasshi 73 (6): 341–5. PMID 17220586.


  • Cecil Textbook of Medicine
  • The Oxford Textbook of Medicine
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Boerhaave_syndrome". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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