Cervical Spine Spondylodiscitis After Esophageal Dilation in Patients With a History of Laryngectomy or Pharyngectomy and Pharyngeal Irradiation

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Abstract

IMPORTANCE

Dysphagia is a frequently reported sequela of treatment for head and neck cancer and is often managed with esophageal dilation in patients with dysphagia secondary to hypopharyngeal or esophageal stenosis. Reported complications of esophagoscopy with dilation include bleeding, esophageal perforation, and mediastinitis. These, though rare, can lead to substantial morbidity or mortality. In patients who have undergone irradiation, tissue fibrosis and devascularization may contribute to a higher incidence of these complications.

OBJECTIVES

To describe the occurrence of cervical spine spondylodiscitis (CSS) following esophageal dilation in patients with a history of laryngectomy or pharyngectomy and irradiation with or without chemotherapy.

DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS

Medical records from a 5-year period (January 1, 2009, through December 31, 2014) in an academic tertiary care center were searched for patients with a history of laryngopharyngeal irradiation and a diagnosis of CSS following esophageal dilation. Four eligible patients were identified.

MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES

Recognition and treatment of CSS in the study population.

RESULTS

A total of 1221 patients underwent esophageal dilation for any reason. Of these, 247 patients carried a diagnosis of head and neck cancer at the following sites: piriform sinus, larynx, hypopharynx, epiglottis, oropharynx, base of the tongue, and tonsil. Of these, 4 patients with a diagnosis of CSS following esophageal dilation were included in this assessment. Prompt diagnosis and multidisciplinary management of CSS with intravenous antibiotics as well as spinal surgical debridement and stabilization led to recovery of full ability to take food by mouth in 3 of the 4 included patients. One patient remained dependent on the feeding tube.

CONCLUSION AND RELEVANCE

In patients with a history of laryngopharyngeal irradiation and esophageal dilation, complaints of neck pain or upper extremity weakness should trigger immediate evaluation for CSS; if present, prompt therapy is essential for prevention of substantial morbidity and mortality.

This case series describes 4 patients with a history of laryngectomy or pharyngectomy and pharyngeal irradiation who developed cervical spine spondylodiscitis following esophageal dilation.

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