Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Neck FAQ

Question:

Have you ever heard of losing the ability to swallow after surgery? My 62 year old wife had a neck fusion for a disc herniation at C45. Now she's having trouble speaking and swallowing.

Answer:

Complications after cervical spine surgery are reported in about four per cent of the patients having this operation. Infection, nerve damage, and difficulty swallowing are some of the more common problems. Occasionally, even death can occur. This is more likely to happen to older adults.

Dysphagia is a medical term used to describe the problem your wife is having with difficulty swallowing. Hoarseness or only being able to speak in a whisper accompanied by dysphagia after cervical spine surgery suggests some kind of nerve damage. The condition is often temporary but may be permanent.

Some experts suggest the number and kind of problems reported after cervical spine fusion are actually underreported. Researchers studying outcomes of spinal surgery suggest that complications such as your wife experienced occur more often than was previously known.

If you have not reported this condition to her surgeon, you should contact him or her for a consultation and further follow-up. Marjorie C. Wang, MD, MPH, et al. Complications and Mortality Associated with Cervical Spine Surgery for Degenerative Disease in the United States. In Spine. February 1, 2007. Vol. 32. No. 3. Pp. 342-347.

*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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