Objective To understand the anatomical and physiological basis for early recovery of swallowing function after supraglottic laryngectomy.
Study Design Retrospective review.
Methods The records of nine patients who had undergone supraglottic laryngectomy at the Stratton Veteran's Administration Hospital (Albany, NY) between 1994 and 1998 were reviewed. Videofluoroscopic swallowing studies were obtained on all patients as early as was safely possible and were reviewed by a multidisciplinary team of physicians, nurses, and speech pathologists with regard to anatomical and functional differences between successful and unsuccessful recovery of swallowing function.
Results Five of nine patients resumed regular diets including thin liquids within 1 year of surgery; three patients remained dependent on enteral support. Swallowing success was most closely associated with short oropharyngeal transit time and an anterosuperior position of the larynx. Laryngeal positioning, tongue base mobility, and placement and coordination of the bolus for maximum swallowing efficiency can be improved with time and speech therapy.
Conclusions Factors that placed patients at significantly higher risk for aspiration included low laryngeal position and delayed oropharyngeal transit time. Tight lingual-laryngeal closure did not completely prevent aspiration. At the time of the initial surgical procedure it may be important to position the laryngeal remnant as far superior and anterior under the tongue base as possible.