Early fiberoptic endoscopic evaluation of swallow in transoral robotic surgery: Description of swallow function and recovery in the acute postoperative period for oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma.

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Journal Article
Head & neck, 2020, 43, (1), pp. 116-127
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Transoral robotic surgery (TORS) is a minimally invasive approach for the treatment of oropharyngeal cancer. The effects on swallowing and speech need to be comprehensively evaluated to understand the associated morbidity.


A prospective cohort of 21 patients was recruited to undergo pre-TORS and post-TORS swallowing and communication assessment. Fiberoptic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing (FEES) was used in the first postoperative week.


Sixteen participants (76.2%) had penetration-aspiration scores ≥3 or higher, seven (33.3%) aspirated on thin liquids, three (14.3%) did so silently. Prolonged recovery trajectory occurred for the majority of the cohort, particularly if TORS was followed by adjuvant radiotherapy. Swallowing and communication scores were significantly worse in base of tongue primary tumors and with advanced age.


Early FEES demonstrates a significant decline in swallowing function, including increased secretion load, pharyngeal residue, laryngeal penetration, and aspiration. Silent aspiration occurred in 14% and thus highlights the necessity for instrumental assessment to ascertain aspiration risk.
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