Influence of neck postural changes on cervical spine motion and angle during swallowing

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Occipitocervical (OC) fixation in a neck retraction position could be dangerous due to the risk of postoperative dysphagia. No previous study has demonstrated an association between the cervical posture change and cervical spine motion/angle during swallowing. So, we aimed to analyze the influence of neck posture on the cervical spine motion and angle change during swallowing.

Thirty-seven asymptomatic volunteers were recruited for participation this study. A videoflurographic swallowing study was performed in the neutral and retracted neck posture. We analyzed the images of the oral and pharyngeal phases of swallowing and compared the angle and the position changes of each cervical segment.

In the neutral posture, C1 and C2 were flexed, while C5, C6, and C7 were extended. C3, C4, C5, C6, and C7 moved posteriorly. All cervical levels, except for C5, moved superiorly. In the retraction posture, C0 and C1 were flexed, while C6 was extended during swallowing. All cervical levels moved posteriorly. C1, C2, C3, and C4 moved superiorly. The comparison between 2 postures shows that angle change is significantly different between C0, C2, and C5. Posterior translation change is significantly different in the upper cervical spine (C0, C1, and C2) and C7. Superior movement is significantly different in C0.

C0 segment is most significantly different between neutral and retraction posture in terms of angle and position change. These data suggest that C0 segment could be a critical level of compensation that allows swallowing even in the retraction neck posture regarding motion and angle change. So, it is important not to do OC fixation in retraction posture. Also, sparing C0 segment could provide some degree of freedom for the compensatory movement and angle change to avoid dysphagia after OC fixation.

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