Does swallowing function return after tongue surgery?

Swallowing function appears to return to acceptable levels in the long-term for patients who undergo surgical removal of tongue cancer lesions, according to a study in the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.

Researchers from Hokkaido University measured postsurgical swallowing function in 20 patients five years after surgical treatment of their tongue carcinomas (JOMS, April 19, 2012).

Using a retrospective cohort study design, the investigators enrolled postsurgical patients treated for tongue carcinomas in Hokkaido University Hospital. The primary outcome variable was oropharyngeal swallow efficiency (OPSE) determined by videofluoroscopic evaluation, and OPSE at follow-up was compared with that at discharge.

The mean OPSE values for liquid and paste at follow-up were 26.6 ± 21.2 and 21.9 ± 22.5, respectively, the researchers reported. All patients had a full oral intake of foods, with a mean self-rated value of 6.4 ± 2.5, a value acceptable to the patients.

"The long-term follow-up of patients after the surgical treatment of tongue carcinomas showed acceptable levels of oral function and nutritional status despite objective measurements of poor swallowing efficiency assessed using videofluoroscopy," the study authors concluded.

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