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Kenji Yagi, Hiroshi Nakagawa, Toshiyuki Okazaki, Shinsuke Irie, Toru Inagaki, Osamu Saito, Shinji Nagahiro and Koji Saito

OBJECTIVE

Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) procedures are performed to treat patients with cervical myelopathy or radiculopathy. Dysphagia is a post-ACDF complication. When it coincides with prevertebral space enlargement and inflammation, surgical site infection and pharyngoesophageal perforation must be considered. The association between dysphagia and prevertebral inflammation has not been reported. The authors investigated factors eliciting severe dysphagia and its relationship with prevertebral inflammation in patients who had undergone ACDF.

MATERIALS

The clinical data of 299 patients who underwent 307 ACDF procedures for cervical radiculopathy or myelopathy at Kushiro Kojinkai Memorial Hospital and Kushiro Neurosurgical Hospital between December 2007 and August 2014 were reviewed.

RESULTS

After 7 ACDF procedures (2.3%), 7 patients suffered severe prolonged and/or delayed dysphagia and odynophagia that prevented ingestion. In all 7 patients the prevertebral space was enlarged. In 5 (1.6%) the symptom was thought to be associated with prevertebral soft-tissue edema; in all 5 an inflammatory response, hyperthermia, and an increase in the white blood cell count and in C-reactive protein level was observed. After 2 procedures (0.7%), we noted prevertebral hematoma without an inflammatory response. None of the patients who had undergone 307 ACDF procedures manifested pharyngoesophageal perforation or surgical site infection.

CONCLUSIONS

Severe dysphagia and odynophagia are post-ACDF complications. In most instances they are attributable to prevertebral soft-tissue edema accompanied by inflammatory responses such as fever and an increase in the white blood cell count and in C-reactive protein. In other cases these anomalies are elicited by hematoma not associated with inflammation.