Fluoroscopic Swallowing Abnormalities in Dysphagic Patients Following Anterior Cervical Spine Surgery

Shumon Ian Dhar, Adam M. Wegner, Pope Rodnoi, John C. Wuellner, Omid Benjamin Mehdizadeh, Shih C. Shen, Yuval Nachalon, Nogah Nativ-Zeltzer, Peter C. Belafsky, Eric O. Klineberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Objectives: To evaluate the precise objective fluoroscopic abnormalities in persons with dysphagia following anterior cervical spine surgery (ACSS). Methods: 129 patients with dysphagia after ACSS were age and sex matched to 129 healthy controls. All individuals underwent videofluoroscopic swallow study (VFSS). VFSS parameters abstracted included upper esophageal sphincter (UES) opening, penetration aspiration scale (PAS), and pharyngeal constriction ratio (PCR). Other data collected included patient-reported outcome measures of voice and swallowing, number of levels fused, type of plate, vocal fold immobility, time from surgery to VFSS, and revision surgery status. Results: The mean age of the entire cohort was 63 (SD ± 11) years. The mean number of levels fused was 2.2 (±0.9). 11.6% (15/129) were revision surgeries. The mean time from ACSS to VFSS was 58.3 months (±63.2). The majority of patients (72.9%) had anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF). For persons with dysphagia after ACSS, 7.8% (10/129) had endoscopic evidence of vocal fold immobility. The mean UES opening was 0.84 (±0.23) cm for patients after ACSS and 0.86 (±0.22) cm for controls (P >.0125). Mean PCR was 0.12 (±0.12) for persons after ACSS and 0.08 (±0.08) for controls, indicating significant post-surgical pharyngeal weakness (P <.0125). The median PAS was 1 (IQR 1) for persons after ACSS as well as for controls. For ACSS patients, PCR had a weak correlation with EAT-10 (P <.0125). Conclusion: Chronic swallowing dysfunction after ACSS appears to be secondary to pharyngeal weakness and not diminished UES opening, the presence of aspiration, vocal fold immobility, or ACSS instrumentation factors. Level of Evidence: 3b.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAnnals of Otology, Rhinology and Laryngology
StateAccepted/In press - 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • anterior spine surgery
  • dysphagia
  • fluoroscopy
  • swallowing
  • upper esophageal sphincter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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