Early Voice and Swallowing Disturbance Incidence and Risk Factors After Revision Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion Using a Multidisciplinary Surgical Approach

Neurosurgery 94:444–453, 2024

Dysphagia and vocal cord palsy (VCP) are common otolaryngological complications after revision anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (rACDF) procedures. Our objective was to determine the early incidence and risk factors of VCP and dysphagia after rACDF using a 2-team approach.

METHODS: Single-institution, retrospective analysis of a prospectively collected database of patients undergoing rACDF was enrolled from September 2010 to July 2021. Of 222 patients enrolled, 109 patients were included in the final analysis. All patients had prior ACDF surgery with planned revision using a single otolaryngologist and single neurosurgeon. MD Anderson Dysphagia Inventory and fiberoptic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing (FEES) were used to assess dysphagia. VCP was assessed using videolaryngostroboscopy.

RESULTS: Seven patients (6.7%) developed new postoperative VCP after rACDF. Most cases of VCP resolved by 3 months postoperatively (mean time-to-resolution 79 ± 17.6 days). One patient maintained a permanent deficit. Forty-one patients (37.6%) reached minimum clinically important difference (MCID) in their MD Anderson Dysphagia Inventory composite scores at the 2-week follow-up (MCID decline of ≥6), indicating new clinically relevant swallowing disturbance. Forty-nine patients (45.0%) had functional FEES Performance Score decline. On univariate analysis, there was an association between new VCPs and the number of cervical levels treated at revision (P = .020) with long-segment rACDF (≥4 levels) being an independent risk factor (P = .010). On linear regression, there was an association between the number of levels treated previously and at revision for FEES Performance Score decline (P = .045 and P = .002, respectively). However, on univariate analysis, sex, age, body mass index, operative time, alcohol use, smoking, and individual levels revised were not risk factors for reaching FEES Performance Score decline nor MCID at 2 weeks postoperatively.

CONCLUSION: VCP is more likely to occur in long-segment rACDF but is often temporary. Clinically relevant and functional rates of dysphagia approach 37% and 45%, respectively, at 2 weeks postoperatively after rACDF.