, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 5–94 | Cite as

Cervical Spinal Cord Injury and Deglutition Disorders

  • Rainer AbelEmail author
  • Silke Ruf
  • Bernhard Spahn


The association of cervical spinal cord injury and swallowing disorders is clinically well recognized. This study was performed to determine the clinical significance and the outcome of deglutition disorders observed in the initial treatment of cervical spinal cord injury in our tertiary care spinal cord injury unit. All patients with cervical spinal cord injury admitted to our facility for initial care between January 1997 and December 2000 were included in our study. Prevalence of dysphagia and frequency of pneumonia were determined. An assessment of deglutition at discharge was performed. Dysphagia was diagnosed in 26 of the 73 patients with cervical spinal cord injury. Tracheostomy and duration of orotracheal intubation are associated with dysphagia. The disorder necessitated dietary restrictions in 18 patients. Six of these patients had to be discharged with a percutaneous enterogastric feeding tube; seven had persistent problems not resulting in dietary restrictions. The incidence of late pneumonia was significantly increased with two associated deaths. Dysphagia is a serious complication associated with prolonged requirement for ventilatory support. Patients have to be monitored closely because the incidence of pneumonia is increased. While the situation improves for most patients, a significant number of patients need a percutaneous enterogastric feeding tube as a permanent solution.


Deglutition disorders Orotracheal intubation Spinal cord injuries/complications/rehabilitation Tracheostomy/rehabilitation Deglutition 



We want to thank Dr. Schröter–Morasch (München) and Dr. Uttenweiler (Heidelberg) for reviewing the manuscript. Their suggestions made substantial improvements possible.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Orthopedic Surgery and RehabilitationOrthopädische Universitätsklinik HeidelbergHeidelbergGermany
  2. 2.Orthopädische Universitätsklinik HeidelbergHeidelbergGermany

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