Comparison of Long-term Differences in Dysphagia: Cervical Arthroplasty and Anterior Cervical Fusion

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Study Design:Retrospective cohort study.Objective:This study investigates the incidence of long-term dysphagia in cervical disc arthroplasty, and anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) patients.Summary of Background Data:No long-term comparison of dysphagia between cervical arthroplasty and fusion patients has been published. Widely variable short-term postsurgical dysphagia rates have been reported.Materials and Methods:Cohorts for this study are patients with single-level cervical degenerative disc disease previously enrolled in a randomized clinical trial comparing cervical arthroplasty and ACDF. Subjective modified Bazaz Dysphagia Severity questionnaires were distributed to each patient at a minimum of 5 years postoperative for the long-term assessment. Dysphagia severity data were pooled to compare the rate of patients with dysphagia (grade>1) to asymptomatic (grade=1).Results:In the arthroplasty cohort, 15 of 22 (68%) patients completed long-term swallowing questionnaires with no reports of dysphagia. Eighteen of 25 (72%) ACDF patients completed questionnaires, with 5 of 18 (28%) reporting dysphagia. This is a statistically significant difference (P=0.042) favoring lower rates of long-term dysphagia after cervical arthroplasty at an average interval of 7 years postoperative (range, 5.5–8.5 y). No significant difference between rates of self-reported short-term dysphagia was noted with 12% (3/25) and 9% (2/22) in the ACDF and arthroplasty groups, respectively (P=0.56). All short-term dysphagia cases in the arthroplasty cohort reported complete resolution of symptoms within 12 months postoperative. In the ACDF cohort, persistent symptoms at 7 years were noted in all responding patients. Three ACDF patients reported new late-onset, which was not noted in the arthroplasty cohort.Conclusions:To date, these findings represent the longest reported follow-up interval comparing rates of dysphagia between randomized cohorts of cervical arthroplasty and fusion patients. Our study suggests that cervical arthroplasty is less likely than ACDF to cause sustained long-term or late-presenting dysphagia.

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