Change in Angular Alignment Is Associated With Early Dysphagia After Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion

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Study Design:

Retrospective analysis of a prospective cohort.


Change in cervical angular alignment may be associated with dysphagia.

Summary of Background Data:

Bony deformities of the cervical spine may be associated with secondary contractures of soft tissues in the neck. Acute surgical deformity correction causes in changes in soft tissue tension in the anterior neck, resulting in dysphagia.


The study population included patients undergoing 1 and 2 level elective anterior cervical discectomy and fusion for cervical myelopathy or radiculopathy. Preoperative and postoperative radiographs at 2 weeks were measured by a blinded observer for C2–C7 endplate angle, C2–C7 posterior vertebral body length, and occipital condyle plumb line distance on upright lateral radiographs at 2, 6, and 12 weeks postoperatively. Patients were prospectively queried about dysphagia incidence and severity using a numeric rating scale. Multiple linear regression analysis was used to determine the effect of change in radiographic parameters controlling for demographic characteristics.


The study population included 25 patients with complete radiographs. The mean change in C2–C7 angle was −0.6 degrees (SD 9), the mean change in C2–C7 length was 1.7 mm (SD 26), the mean change in occipital condyle plumb line distance was 2.3 mm (SD 20).


Multiple linear regression analysis was performed including operative time, age, sex, number of levels, and change in radiographic parameters as independent variables and using dysphagia score as the dependent variable. The change in C2–C7 angle and operative time were the only statistically significant predictors of change in dysphagia at 2 and 6 weeks postoperatively.


These results indicate that lordotic change in spinal alignment and longer operative times are associated with increased postoperative dysphagia. Surgeons should counsel patients in whom a large angular correction is expected about the possibility for postoperative dysphagia. Furthermore, future studies on dysphagia incidence should include radiographic alignment as an independent predictor of dysphagia.

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