Although previous reports have identified dysphagia as a potential complication of anterior cervical spine surgery (ACSS), current understanding of the nature and etiologies of ACSS-related dysphagia remains limited. The present study was undertaken to describe the patterns of dysphagia that may occur following ACSS. Thirteen patients who exhibited new-onset dysphagia following ACSS were studied retrospectively by means of chart review and videofluoroscopic swallow study analysis. Results indicated that a variety of swallowing impairments occurred following ACSS. In 2 patients, prevertebral soft tissue swelling near the surgical site, deficient posterior pharyngeal wall movement, and impaired upper esophageal sphincter opening were the most salient videofluoroscopic findings. In another 5 patients, the pharyngeal phase of swallowing was absent or very weak, with resulting aspiration in 3 cases. In contrast, an additional 4 patients exhibited deficits primarily of the oral preparatory and oral stages of swallowing including deficient bolus formation and reduced tongue propulsive action. Finally, 2 patients exhibited impaired oral preparatory and oral phases, a weak pharyngeal swallow, as well as prevertebral swelling. Thus, a variety of swallowing deficits, due possibly to neurological and/or soft tissue injuries, may occur following ACSS.
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