After a cervical spine (neck) fusion I had a serious problem with swallowing. It lasted for about a month and then went away. No one seemed to know anything about it. What can you tell me?

Dysphagia or difficulty swallowing occurs in up to 60 percent of patients having anterior cervical spine fusion. Researchers say it's very common and highly underreported.

From imaging studies it looks like the cause may be soft tissue swelling. Sometimes a pocket of blood called a hematoma puts pressure on the local nerves causing dysphagia.

Infection is another possible cause. Most of these problems are temporary. As healing takes place, the swelling or results of local bleeding are slowly resolved. Most soft tissue healing takes place in the first four weeks as you experienced.

Jonathan R. Stieber, MD, et al. Anterior Cervical Decompression and Fusion with Plate Fixation as an Outpatient Procedure. In The Spine Journal. September 2005. Vol. 5. No. 5. Pp.503-507.

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