Penetrating neck injuries present a difficult challenge in management, given the unique anatomy of the neck. Controversy surrounds the approach to zone II injuries: mandatory versus selective exploration. On the basis of an extensive literature review, the authors conclude that neither approach is obviously superior. A selective approach is safe in the asymptomatic and hemodynamically stable patient, provided that accurate invasive diagnostic means are immediately available. The mandatory approach is safe, reliable, and time tested. The greatest problem appears to be the accuracy of detection of cervical esophageal injuries: Radiologic evaluation may be inaccurate, rigid esophagoscopy carries a risk of perforation, and the injury may easily be overlooked during surgical exploration.
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