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Glendale Adventist Medical Center
1500 E. Chevy Chase Drive, Suite 401B
Glendale, CA 91206
Ph: (818) 863-4444

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Problems Swallowing and Talking After Cervical Decompression

Posted on: 08/30/2007
Disc herniation in the cervical spine (neck) can require surgery. The disc is removed and the vertebrae at that level are fused together. When the operation is done from the front of the neck it's called an anterior cervical decompression (ACD).

In this study, neurosurgeons report on problems that can occur after the ACD. Nerve damage and swelling in the soft tissues often cause difficulty swallowing and talking. Although these problems are temporary and usually clear up, permanent nerve damage is not rare.

Three groups of patients were included. Two groups had ACD with follow-up at different times. The first (early group was examined before and after surgery. Then they filled out a survey three-months later.

The second group had the surgery and then was invited for a postoperative visit three to nine months later. The third group was the control group. They were seen at the Department of Head and Neck Surgery for other problems.

Information was collected about voice quality and difficulty with swallowing. Everyone was also asked about quality of life (QOL). Vocal cord paralysis on the operated side was common (12 per cent).

Difficulty speaking and talking occurred during the first week after surgery. Most patients had recovered completely by the end of three months. They were generally satisfied with the results. There were fewer satisfied patients in the group who had lasting pain, hoarseness, numbness, and weakness.

The authors concluded that although problems talking and swallowing are common after ACD, in most cases, they are temporary. Symptoms can last months after the surgery. When symptoms last longer than expected, patients should be seen by an ear, nose, and throat specialist.

Hanna Tervonen, MD, et al. Dysphonia and Dysphagia After Anterior Cervical Decompression. In Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine. August 2007. Vol. 7. No. 2. Pp. 124-130.

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