Pharyngeal transport dysfunction consequent to an organ-sparing protocol

Tamar Kotz, Suzanne Abraham, Jonathan J. Beitler, Scott Wadler, Richard V. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Scopus citations


Objective: To investigate the effects of a protocol of concomitant intravenous hydroxyurea and hyperfractionated, accelerated, external-beam radiation therapy on the swallowing mechanism of patients with advanced- stage head and neck cancer. Design: Posttreatment videofluoroscopic swallow function studies, using images of single-bolus swallows of low-density liquid barium, were analyzed in real time, slow motion, and frame by frame using an integrated system that allows objective analysis of video recordings through image processing and digitization (Kay Elemetrics Computerized Swallowing Station). Radiological descriptors were used for pharyngeal transport abnormalities, and temporal measures were obtained of structural movements. Setting: Academic, tertiary care, referral medical center. Patients: Fifteen consecutive patients with previously untreated, stages III and IV, nonmetastatic squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck who underwent a phase 1 study of prolonged infusion hydroxyurea therapy in combination with hyperfractionated, accelerated external-beam radiation therapy for their disease. Results: All patients had anterior pharyngeal segment dysfunction, characterized by no epiglottic movement and slowed laryngeal motility (1.011 ± 0.379 seconds [mean ± SD]). Anterior pharyngeal dysfunction was more severe in patients with primary tumors of the hypopharynx than in those with cancer of the oropharynx. Twelve (80%) of our patients demonstrated posterior pharyngeal segment dysfunction characterized by impaired pharyngeal constrictor motility. All 15 patients displayed pharyngeal stage abnormalities that limited bolus transport and clearance. Conclusions: Severe pharyngeal physiological abnormalities were present that led to impaired bolus transport and that were frequent and debilitating consequences of this organ-sparing protocol. Long-term follow-up of this group will be required to assess the permanence of the abnormalities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)410-413
Number of pages4
JournalArchives of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Otorhinolaryngology


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