Comparison of swallowing function after intensity-modulated radiation therapy and conventional radiotherapy for head and neck cancer

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Background.Intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) is hoped to protect structures important for swallow function. We compared posttreatment swallow function in 7 pairs of patients with head and neck cancer treated with either IMRT or conventional radiotherapy (RT).Methods.Patients were matched on tumor characteristics. Swallowing function was evaluated with the modified barium swallow procedure pretreatment and at 3 and 6 months postcancer treatment completion. Swallows were analyzed for bolus transit times, bolus residues, laryngeal closure (LAC) duration, cricopharyngeal opening (CPO) duration, and oropharyngeal swallow efficiency (OPSE). Data were analyzed using multifactor repeated measures analysis of variance and adjusted for baseline function.Results.Main effect of radiation type was significant for all measures on at least 1 bolus type. Patients treated with IMRT demonstrated shorter bolus transit times, less oral and pharyngeal residue, longer LAC, and larger OPSE.Conclusion.Patients treated with IMRT demonstrated faster, more efficient swallows, and greater airway protection. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Head Neck 37: 1575–1582, 2015

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