Analysis of the factors influencing dysphagia severity upon diagnosis of head and neck cancer

Nam P. Nguyen, P. Vos, C. C. Moltz, C. Frank, C. Millar, H. J. Smith, S. Dutta, A. Alfieri, H. Lee, T. Martinez, U. Karlsson, L. M. Nguyen, S. Sallah

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23 Scopus citations


Our aim was to assess the influence of age, co-morbidity factors and tumour characteristics on dysphagia severity in the diagnosis of head and neck cancer. Modified barium swallow (MBS) examinations were performed in patients at diagnosis of head and neck cancer. Dysphagia was graded on a scale of 1 to 7 of increasing severity. Between 2000 and 2006, 236 patients with dysphagia underwent MBS at diagnosis of their head and neck cancer. 82 patients were scored as Grade 1, 88 as Grade 2, 29 as Grade 3, 15 as Grade 4, 9 as Grade 5, 5 as Grade 6, and 8 as Grade 7. Grade 3-7 dysphagia occurred in 20% and 31% of patients with T1-T2 and T3-T4 tumours, respectively (p=0.004). Corresponding values for N0-N1 and N2-N3 tumours were 20% and 39%, respectively (p=0.002). The percentage of patients with Grade 3-7 dysphagia was 5%, 29%, 33% and 52% for oral cavity, laryngeal, oropharyngeal and hypopharyngeal tumours, respectively, (p=0.002). Age and co-morbidity factors (e.g. diabetes, hypertension, coronary artery disease, peripheral vascular diseases and arthritis) did not appear to have an impact on swallowing in this limited retrospective study. Patients with locally advanced stages (T3-T4, N2-N3) are at risk of severe dysphagia. Patients with oral cavity tumours appear to be less at risk of dysphagia than those with tumours in different anatomic locations. The role of age and co-morbidity factors should be investigated in future prospective studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)706-710
Number of pages5
JournalBritish Journal of Radiology
Issue number969
StatePublished - Sep 2008
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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