Factors Associated With Long-Term Dysphagia After Definitive Radiotherapy for Locally Advanced Head-and-Neck Cancer

Academic Article


  • Purpose: The use of altered fractionation radiotherapy (RT) regimens, as well as concomitant chemotherapy and RT, to intensify therapy for locally advanced head-and-neck cancer can lead to increased rates of long-term dysphagia. Methods and Materials: We identified 122 patients who had undergone definitive RT for locally advanced head-and-neck cancer, after excluding those who had been treated for a second or recurrent head-and-neck primary, had Stage I-II disease, developed locoregional recurrence, had <12 months of follow-up, or had undergone postoperative RT. The patient, tumor, and treatment factors were correlated with a composite of 3 objective endpoints as a surrogate for severe long-term dysphagia: percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy tube dependence at the last follow-up visit; aspiration on a modified barium swallow study or a clinical diagnosis of aspiration pneumonia; or the presence of a pharyngoesophageal stricture. Results: A composite dysphagia outcome occurred in 38.5% of patients. On univariate analysis, the primary site (p = 0.01), use of concurrent chemotherapy (p = 0.01), RT schedule (p = 0.02), and increasing age (p = 0.04) were significantly associated with development of composite long-term dysphagia. The use of concurrent chemotherapy (p = 0.01), primary site (p = 0.02), and increasing age (p = 0.02) remained significant on multivariate analysis. Conclusion: The addition of concurrent chemotherapy to RT for locally advanced head-and-neck cancer resulted in increased long-term dysphagia. Early intervention using swallowing exercises, avoidance of nothing-by-mouth periods, and the use of intensity-modulated RT to reduce the dose to the uninvolved swallowing structures should be explored further in populations at greater risk of long-term dysphagia. © 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Caudell JJ; Schaner PE; Meredith RF; Locher JL; Nabell LM; Carroll WR; Magnuson JS; Spencer SA; Bonner JA
  • Start Page

  • 410
  • End Page

  • 415
  • Volume

  • 73
  • Issue

  • 2