Persistent swallowing and voice problems after anterior cervical discectomy and fusion with allograft and plating: a 5- to 11-year follow-up study

Eur Spine J. 2005 Sep;14(7):677-82. doi: 10.1007/s00586-004-0849-3. Epub 2005 Feb 4.


Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion is commonly performed for cervical disc disease. Most studies report that swallowing and voice problems after such surgeries tend to resolve with time and are often of minor significance except in the rare cases of recurrent laryngeal nerve palsies. A retrospective review was performed on patients who had anterior cervical discectomy and fusion by a single surgeon more than 5 years prior, to determine the persistence of swallowing and voice problems in them. Seventy-four patients who had anterior cervical discectomy and fusion with allograft and plating an average of 7.2 years prior responded to an invitation to return for a follow-up clinical review. Emphasis was placed on the symptoms of dysphagia and dysphonia, as related to the index surgery. At final review, persistent dysphagia was present in 26 patients (35.1%). This occurred more frequently in females and in younger patients. Dysphonia at final review persisted in 14 patients (18.9%). This also occurred more commonly in females and in patients in whom possible non-union is present in at least one of the levels operated upon. Problems with singing were present in 16 patients (21.6%) postoperatively, occurring more frequently if the C3/4 disc was included in the surgery and in patients who have had a greater total number of anterior cervical surgeries at the time of review. Dysphonia and dysphagia are persistent problems in a significant proportion of patients, even beyond 5 years after anterior cervical spine surgery.

MeSH terms

  • Bone Plates
  • Bone Transplantation / adverse effects
  • Bone Transplantation / statistics & numerical data
  • Cervical Vertebrae / surgery*
  • Deglutition Disorders / epidemiology
  • Deglutition Disorders / etiology*
  • Diskectomy / adverse effects*
  • Diskectomy / statistics & numerical data
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Phonation
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Spinal Fusion / adverse effects*
  • Spinal Fusion / instrumentation
  • Spinal Fusion / statistics & numerical data
  • Transplantation, Homologous
  • Voice Disorders / epidemiology
  • Voice Disorders / etiology*