Object: This study was undertaken to evaluate the incidence of and risk factors associated with the development of dysphagia following same-day combined anterior-posterior cervical spine surgeries.
Methods: The records of 30 consecutive patients who underwent same-day combined anterior-posterior cervical spine surgery were reviewed. The presence of dysphagia was assessed by a formalized screening protocol using history/clinical presentation and a bedside swallowing test, followed by formal evaluation by speech and language pathologists and/or fiberoptic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing/modified barium swallow when necessary. Age, sex, previous cervical surgeries, diagnoses, duration of procedure, specific vertebral levels and number of levels operated on, degree of sagittal curve correction, use of anterior plate, estimated blood loss, use of recombinant human bone morphogenetic protein-2 (rhBMP-2), and length of hospital stay following procedures were analyzed.
Results: In the immediate postoperative period, 13 patients (43.3%) developed dysphagia. Outpatient follow-up data were available for 11 patients with dysphagia, and within this subset, all cases of dysphagia resolved subjectively within 12 months following surgery. The mean numbers of anterior levels surgically treated in patients with and without dysphagia were 5.1 and 4.0, respectively (p = 0.004). All patients (100%) with dysphagia had an anterior procedure that extended above C-4, compared with 58.8% of patients without dysphagia (p = 0.010). Patients with dysphagia had significantly greater mean correction of C2-7 lordosis than patients without dysphagia (p = 0.020). The postoperative sagittal occiput-C2 angle and the change in this angle were not significantly associated with the occurrence of dysphagia (p = 0.530 and p = 0.711, respectively). Patients with postoperative dysphagia had significantly longer hospital stays than those who did not develop dysphagia (p = 0.004). No other significant difference between the dysphagia and no-dysphagia groups was identified; differences with respect to history of previous anterior cervical surgery (p = 0.141), use of an anterior plate (p = 0.613), and mean length of anterior cervical operative time (p = 0.541) were not significant.
Conclusions: The incidence of dysphagia following combined anterior-posterior cervical surgery in this study was comparable to that of previous reports. The risk factors for dysphagia that were identified in this study were increased number of anterior levels exposed, anterior surgery that extended above C-4, and increased surgical correction of C2-7 lordosis.