Laryngopharyngeal dysfunction after the Norwood procedure

Margaret L. Skinner, Lucinda A. Halstead, Catherine S. Rubinstein, Andrew M. Atz, Diane Andrews, Scott M. Bradley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

103 Scopus citations


Objective: We sought to evaluate the incidence and significance of recurrent laryngeal nerve and swallowing dysfunction after a Norwood procedure compared with that after biventricular aortic arch reconstruction. Methods: From April 2003 through December 2004, 36 neonates underwent a Norwood procedure; 33 of 36 had postoperative fiberoptic laryngoscopy and modified barium swallow. Study results were used to guide the transition from nasogastric tube to oral feeding and placement of gastrostomy tubes. During the same time period, 18 neonates underwent aortic arch reconstruction as part of a biventricular repair. Results: After a Norwood procedure, laryngoscopy showed left true vocal fold (cord) paralysis in 3 (9%) of 33 patients. The results of a modified barium swallow were abnormal in 16 (48%) of 33 patients, with aspiration in 8 (24%) of 33 patients. Of the 3 patients with vocal fold paralysis, 2 had a normal modified barium swallow result, and 1 had aspiration. Gastrostomy tubes were placed in 6 (18%) of 33 patients, all with an abnormal modified barium swallow result. Hospital stay was longer in patients with an abnormal modified barium swallow result: 34 ± 13 versus 22 ± 7 days (P < .01). After biventricular repair with aortic arch reconstruction, left true vocal fold paralysis occurred in 4 (25%) of 16 patients; results of a modified barium swallow were abnormal in 10 (59%) of 17 patients, with aspiration in 6 (35%) of 17 patients (all nonsignificant vs patients undergoing the Norwood procedure). Follow-up laryngoscopy in 4 patients with vocal fold paralysis showed no change in 3 of 4 patients and improvement in 1 patient. Follow-up modified barium swallow showed resolution of aspiration in 11 (85%) of 13 patients. Hospital survival was 32 (89%) of 36 patients for the Norwood procedure and 18 (100%) of 18 patients for biventricular repair. There has been 1 sudden death before second-stage palliation. Conclusions: After a Norwood procedure, swallowing dysfunction occurs in 48% of patients, with aspiration in 24%, and results in increased length of hospital stay. Left recurrent laryngeal nerve injury, seen in 9% of patients, is an uncommon cause of swallowing dysfunction. Postoperative aspiration generally resolves over time, whereas vocal fold paralysis does not. Systematic evaluation of swallowing function allows appropriate tailoring of feeding regimens and might contribute to decreased hospital and interstage mortality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1293-1301
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Laryngopharyngeal dysfunction after the Norwood procedure'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this