Analysis of pharyngeal edema post-chemoradiation for head and neck cancer: Impact on swallow function

Maria C. Turcotte, Erica G. Herzberg, Matina Balou, Sonja M. Molfenter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Edema is a frequent clinical observation following chemoradiation treatment (CRT) of oral/oropharyngeal cancer and is thought to contribute to post-CRT swallowing impairment. Our aims were to reliably quantify pharyngeal edema pre- and post-CRT from videofluoroscopic (VF) swallowing studies and to explore the relationship between edema and swallowing impairment. Swallowing impairment was captured using patient-reported swallowing outcomes (EAT-10) and with VF confirmation of impairment (DIGEST). Methods: 40 patients (24 M, age 38-76) with oral/oropharyngeal cancer received radiotherapy (70 Gy, 7 weeks) and 3 weekly doses of cisplatin. VF and EAT-10 were completed pre- and 1-month post-CRT. Edema was captured by measuring posterior pharyngeal wall (PPW) thickness, vallecular space, and pharyngeal area (PA) on a single post-swallow rest frame. Wilcoxon sign rank tests and paired t-tests evaluated within-subject changes in impairment and edema respectively. A linear mixed effect regression model explored the influence of time, patient-reported outcomes, and functional impairment on measures of edema. Results: Swallowing function (EAT-10 and DIGEST) was significantly worse post-CRT. PPW thickness (but not vallecular space and pharyngeal area) was significantly worse post-CRT. PPW thickness was only significantly influenced by time (pre- vs. post-CRT) but not by measures of swallow function. Conclusion: Our findings establish the use of PPW thickness as a reliable measure of acute edema in post-CRT treatment. In this small, retrospective sample, edema was not significantly correlated with either patient-reported or measured swallow function. Prospective longitudinal work, examining the relationship between objective measures of edema, patient perception of impairment, and swallow function and biomechanics is warranted.4.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)377-383
Number of pages7
JournalLaryngoscope investigative otolaryngology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2018


  • Edema
  • chemoradiation
  • dysphagia
  • head and neck cancer
  • propharyngeal

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