Prevalence of dysphagia following posterior fossa tumour resection in children: the Alder Hey experience

Childs Nerv Syst. 2023 Mar;39(3):609-616. doi: 10.1007/s00381-022-05774-3. Epub 2022 Dec 13.


Background: Surgery for posterior fossa tumours (PFTs) in children is associated with bulbar palsy and swallowing difficulties although this risk is not well defined in the literature and issues contributing to dysphagia following surgery are not fully understood.

Aims: This study aims to study the eating, drinking and swallowing function of children following PFT resection in a specialist paediatric neurosurgery centre. This included the frequency and duration of dysphagia, the risk of aspiration and the link between tumour type and dysphagia.

Materials and methods: This is a retrospective review of children undergoing surgery for PFT between 2014 and 2019. Information was obtained from the patients' hospital and speech and language therapy (SLT) notes, oncology database and clinical letters. The International Dysphagia Diet Standardisation Initiative (IDDSI) Framework was used to describe food and fluid modifications.

Results: Seventy children had surgery to resect a posterior fossa tumour at Alder Hey from 2014 to 2019. Thirty-one children were included in the study following referral to SLT. Videofluoroscopy (VF) was undertaken at our institution in 68% (21/31) of cases. Fifty-two percent (11/21) of children aspirated or were considered at risk, and 55% (6/11) of those who aspirated showed silent aspiration. After 3 months, 43% (13/30) still required modified food and/or fluid textures, with this proportion reducing as time progressed. By tumour type, VF was performed in 5/7 medulloblastoma patients with 3/5 showing aspiration and 3/3 silently aspirating; in 8/9 patients with ependymoma with 4/8 patients aspirating with 2/4 showing silent aspiration; and 6/12 glioma patients with 4/6 aspirating with 1/4 showing silent aspiration.

Conclusion: Swallowing difficulties, including silent aspiration, are an important complication of PFT resection. A proportion of children will need ongoing food and/or fluid modification. Further study into dysphagia following PFT resection is indicated.

Keywords: Aspiration; Modified diet; Swallowing; Videofluoroscopy.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Deglutition
  • Deglutition Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Deglutition Disorders* / etiology
  • Humans
  • Infratentorial Neoplasms* / complications
  • Infratentorial Neoplasms* / surgery
  • Neurosurgical Procedures / adverse effects
  • Prevalence