Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Neck FAQ

Question:

I had a cervical fusion at four levels because of various injuries from a life of hard living and working the rodeos. Must have been thrown from 100 broncs over the years. I came out of it okay but still have trouble swallowing. I don't regret the 30 pounds I've lost but I'm getting a little worried that this won't clear up. What should I do?

Answer:

Swallowing problems and sometimes difficulty breathing can be a problem after cervical (neck) fusion. Having multiple levels fused increases the risk of complications. The amount of spine exposed during the operation and the length of time it takes to do the procedure may be two factors in the development of this particular problem. Smokers tend to be at increased risk for dysphagia (difficulty swallowing). Long-term heavy smoking has an effect on the tiny blood vessels in the body and makes it difficult for the body to heal. The dysphagia may be temporary and gradually go away. But it sounds like you've had this problem for more than just a few weeks. It's the sort of thing you should have your surgeon check on. A follow-up visit is advised. Many patients see the surgeon for a post-operative check but don't mention any problems like difficulty swallowing. Many people forget to mention it or just figure they have to put up with it. The surgeon won't know if you don't tell him or her. There may be something that can be done to alleviate the discomfort and restore your ability to eat regular food again. Don't wait much longer to get an appointment and find out what are your options. Yung Park, MD, et al. The Long-Term Results of Anterior Surgical Reconstruction in Patients with Postlaminectomy Cervical Kyphosis. In The Spine Journal. May 2010. Vol. 10. No. 5. Pp. 380-387.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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