Alterations in Swallowing Six Weeks After Primary Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (ACDF)

R. Brynn Jones-Rastelli, Milan R. Amin, Matina Balou, Erica G. Herzberg, Sonja Molfenter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This aim of this study is to characterize the nature and pathophysiology of dysphagia after ACDF surgery by precisely and comprehensively capturing within-subject changes on videofluoroscopy between preoperative and postoperative time points. 21 adults undergoing planned primary ACDF procedures were prospectively recruited and enrolled. Participants underwent standardized preoperative and six-week postoperative videofluoroscopic swallow studies. Videos were blindly rated using the Penetration-Aspiration Scale (PAS) and analysis of total pharyngeal residue (%C2-42), swallowing timing, kinematics, and anatomic change was completed. Linear mixed-effects modeling was used to explore the relationships between possible predictor variables and functional outcomes of interest that changed across timepoints. There was no change in PAS scores across timepoints. Total pharyngeal residue (%C2-C42) was increased postoperatively (p < 0.001). Our statistical model revealed significant main effects for timepoint (p = 0.002), maximum pharyngeal constriction area (MPCAN) (p < 0.001), and maximum thickness of posterior pharyngeal (PPWTMAX) (p = 0.004) on the expression of total pharyngeal residue. There were significant two-way interactions for timepoint and MPCAN (p = 0.028), timepoint and PPWTMAX (p = 0.005), and MPCAN and PPWTMAX (p = 0.010). Unsurprisingly, we found a significant three-way interaction between these three predictors (p = 0.027). Our findings suggest that in planned ACDF procedures without known complications, swallowing efficiency is more likely to be impaired than airway protection six weeks after surgery. The manifestation of impaired swallowing efficiency at this timepoint appears to be driven by a complex relationship between reduced pharyngeal constriction and increased prevertebral edema.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)684-696
Number of pages13
Issue number4
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


  • ACDF
  • Deglutition
  • Dysphagia
  • Edema
  • Kinematics
  • Prospective
  • Residue
  • Spine
  • Swallowing
  • Videofluoroscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Speech and Hearing


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