Cervical Deformity Patients Have Baseline Swallowing Dysfunction but Surgery Does Not Increase Dysphagia at 3 Months: Results From a Prospective Cohort Study

The International Spine Study Group (ISSG)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Study Design: Prospective cohort study. Objectives: Most studies of dysphagia in the cervical spine have focused on a degenerative patient population; the rate of dysphagia following surgery for cervical deformity (CD) is unknown. This study aims to investigate if surgery for cervical deformity results in postoperative dysphagia. Methods: Patients with CD undergoing surgery from 2013 to 2015 were prospectively enrolled to evaluate dysphagia. Demographic, operative, and radiographic variables were analyzed. The Quality of Life in Swallowing Disorders (SWAL-QoL) was used to measure dysphagia. Paired t test, independent t tests, and bivariate Pearson correlations were performed. Results: A total of 88 CD patients, aged 61.52 ± 10.52 years, were enrolled. All patients (100%) had 3-month SWAL-QoL for analysis. The baseline preoperative SWAL-QoL was 78.35. This is roughly the same level of dysphagia as an anterior cervical discectomy patient that is 3 weeks removed from surgery. Increasing body mass index (BMI) was correlated with decreased SWAL-QoL score (r = −0.30, P =.001). Age, gender, smoking, and Charlson Comorbidity Index (CCI) showed no significant correlations with preoperative SWAL-QoL. Patients with prior cervical surgery had a lower preoperative SWAL-QoL (P =.04). While 11 patients had acute postoperative dysphagia, CD surgery did not result in lower SWAL-QoL at 3 months (77.26 vs 78.35, P =.53). Surgical variables, including estimated blood loss (EBL), anterior or posterior fusion levels, steroid use, preoperative traction, staged surgery, surgical approach, anterior corpectomy, posterior osteotomy, and UIV (upper instrumented vertebrae) location, showed no impact on postoperative SWAL-QoL. Correction of cervical kyphosis was not correlated to 3-month SWAL-QoL scores or the change in SWAL-QoL scores. Conclusions: While patients undergoing surgery for cervical deformity had swallowing dysfunction at baseline, we did not observe a significant decline in SWAL-QoL scores at 3 months. Patients with prior cervical surgery and higher BMI had a lower baseline SWAL-QoL. There were no surgical or radiographic variables correlated to a change in SWAL-QOL score.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)532-539
Number of pages8
JournalGlobal Spine Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - Aug 1 2019


  • adult spinal keywords: deformity
  • cervical
  • cervical deformity
  • complications
  • deformity
  • dysphagia
  • posterior cervical surgery
  • postoperative dysphagia
  • revision cervical surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology


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