Retropharyngeal Steroids and Dysphagia Following Multilevel Anterior Cervical Surgery

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Abstract

Study Design.

A retrospective case–control study.

Objective.

The aim of this study was to determine the effect of retropharyngeal steroids on postoperative dysphagia scores and clinical outcomes following multilevel anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF).

Summary of Background Data.

Dysphagia is a well-known complication following ACDF surgery and increased rates of dysphagia are seen with increased levels of surgery. Retropharyngeal steroids have been shown to decrease painful swallowing and prevertebral soft tissue (PSTS) swelling in 1- and 2-level anterior cervical surgery.

Methods.

A retrospective review of 44 patients undergoing multilevel (2-, 3-, 4-level) ACDF. Twenty-two patients who received retropharyngeal steroids (methylprednisone) placed on a collagen sponge at the time of surgery were compared with a matched cohort of controls who did not receive local steroids. Postoperative day 1 and 6-week radiographs were analyzed for differences in PSTS. Clinical outcomes were measured pre-operatively, 6 weeks, and 3 months postoperatively utilizing the Neck Disability Index (NDI), the Bazaz-Yoo Dysphagia Scoring System, and Eat Assessment Tool (EAT-10).

Results.

Significant improvement in dysphagia scores were seen utilizing both outcome measures. Bazaz-Yoo scores were significantly better at both 6 weeks and 3 months in patients receiving local steroids compared with controls (P = 0.008 and P = 0.022, respectively). EAT-10 showed similar improvement of the steroid group versus control at 6 weeks and 3 months (P = 0.067 and P = 0.012, respectively). A trend toward decreased PSTS was found with locally delivered steroids on initial postoperative radiographs (P = 0.07), but was no longer evident at 6 weeks. NDI, although improved from pre-operative scores, failed to demonstrate significant differences between groups. No differences in length of stay or complications were observed between the groups.

Conclusion.

The use of retropharyngeal steroids resulted in decreased rates of dysphagia following multilevel ACDF. Locally delivered methylprednisone did not result in increased rates of short-term postoperative complications.

Conclusion.

Level of Evidence: 4

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