Question:I'm a radio announcer home on disability after a neck fusion. It's been two months and I'm still having trouble swallowing. The doctor says it will probably go away slowly over the next few months. What do other patients with this problem say about it?
Patients who have had cervical spine fusions experience a wide range of problems after surgery. Infection, hardware failure, bone graft rejection, and even failure of the fusion are all reported. Difficulty swallowing called dysphagia or painful swallowing called odynophagia occur in about 10 to 13 percent of all cases.
Some patients report that symptoms are go away within a month's time. For others it takes up to six months for swallowing to return to normal.
Long-term results of this problem aren't reported but individual patients say minor problems exist. In some cases of anterior fusion, scar tissue forms pressing on the esophagus. Food going down expands the esophagus and comes in contact with the scar tissue. Patients report an odd sensation of pressure and discomfort.
Pressing with the fingers alongside the esophagus can reproduce these same symptoms. Most of the time it's a minor annoyance and doesn't cause any real problems.Kurtis I. Auguste, MD, et al. Expandable Cylindrical Cages in the Cervical Spine: A Review of 22 Cases. In Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine. April 2006. Vol. 4. No. 4. Pp. 285-291, 2006.
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