Dysphagia and vocal cord palsy (VCP) are common complications after anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF). The reported incidence rates for dysphagia and VCP are variable. When videolaryngostroboscopy (VLS) is performed to assess vocal cord function after ACDF procedures, the incidence of VCP is reported to be as high as 22%. The incidence of dysphagia ranges widely, with estimates up to 71%. However, to the authors’ knowledge, there are no prospective studies that demonstrate the rates of VCP and dysphagia for reoperative ACDF. This study aimed to investigate the incidence of voice and swallowing disturbances before and after reoperative ACDF using a 2-team operative approach with comprehensive pre- and postoperative assessment of swallowing, direct vocal cord visualization, and clinical neurosurgical outcomes.
A convenience sample of sequential patients who were identified as requiring reoperative ACDF by the senior spinal neurosurgeon at the University of Alabama at Birmingham were enrolled in a prospective, nonrandomized study during the period from May 2010 until July 2014. Sixty-seven patients undergoing revision ACDF were enrolled using a 2-team approach with neurosurgery and otolaryngology. Dysphagia was assessed both preoperatively and postoperatively using the MD Anderson Dysphagia Inventory (MDADI) and fiberoptic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing (FEES), whereas VCP was assessed using direct visualization with VLS.
Five patients (7.5%) developed a new postoperative temporary VCP after reoperative ACDF. All of these cases resolved by 2 months postoperatively. There were no new instances of permanent VCP. Twenty-five patients had a new swallowing disturbance detected on FEES compared with their baseline assessment, with most being mild and requiring no intervention. Nearly 60% of patients showed a decrease in their postoperative MDADI scores, particularly within the physical subset.
A 2-team approach to reoperative ACDF was safe and effective, with no new cases of VCP on postoperative VLS. Dysphagia rates as assessed through the MDADI scale and FEES were consistent with other published reports.