Endoscopic dilatation improves long-term dysphagia following head and neck cancer therapies: A randomized control trial

P. I. Wu, M. M. Szczesniak, J. Maclean, P. H. Graham, H. Quon, L. Choo, I. J. Cook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Long-term pharyngeal dysphagia is a common complication following head and neck cancer (HNC) therapies. High-level evidence for pharyngoesophageal junction (POJ) dilatation as a treatment in this population is lacking. We aimed to evaluate the safety and efficacy of POJ dilatation in dysphagic HNC survivors. This single-center, single-blind, placebo-controlled trial (St GeorgeHospital, Sydney, Australia) randomly assigned (1:1) HNCsurvivors with long-termdysphagia (?12 months postcompletedHNCtherapies) to receive either graded endoscopic dilatations or sham dilatation (placebo). Patients were blinded to intervention types. Two strata were used for permuted randomization: (1) HNC therapies (total laryngectomy vs. chemoradiation alone); (2) Prior POJ dilatation (nil vs. previous dilatation). The primary endpoint was a short-term clinical response in swallowing function (3 months), defined as (1) a decrease in Sydney Swallow Questionnaire score by ?200 or a score ? ULN; and (2) satisfactory global clinical assessment. The secondary endpoints were dysphagia relapse and serious adverse events. This trial is registered with the AustralianNew Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ACTRN12617000707369). Between 13 January 2013 and 16 January 2017, 41 patients were randomly assigned to endoscopic dilatation (n=21) or placebo (n = 20). The short-term response rate in the endoscopic dilatation group was 76% (n = 16), compared with 5% (n = 1) in the placebo group (P < 0.001). There were no serious adverse events. The finding of a mucosal tear postdilatation was associated strongly with clinical response (OR 13.4, 95% CI [2.4, 74.9], P = 0.003). Kaplan- Meier estimate of dysphagia relapse is 50% by 9.6 months (95% CI [6.0, 19.2]) from completion of dilatation. Endoscopic dilatation of the POJ is a safe and efficacious therapy for the treatment of long-term dysphagia in HNC survivors. Close follow-up and repeat dilatation are necessary given the high dysphagia relapse rate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberdoy087
JournalDiseases of the Esophagus
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2019


  • dilatation
  • dysphagia
  • head and neck cancer
  • laryngectomy
  • pharyngoesophageal junction
  • radiotherapy
  • strictures

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology


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