This study examines oropharyngeal swallow disorders and measures of pharyngeal and laryngeal movement during deglutition from videofluorographic studies of oropharyngeal swallow in 9 patients who had undergone supraglottic laryngectomy and 9 age-matched normal subjects. The swallows of surgical patients were examined at 2 weeks and 3 months postoperatively. Two critical factors in recovery of swallowing were identified: (a) airway closure at the laryngeal entrance, that is, the space between the arytenoid cartilage and the base of the tongue, and (b) the movement of the tongue base to make complete contact with the posterior pharyngeal wall. When patients achieved these two functions, they returned to normal swallowing. The duration of tongue base contact to the posterior pharyngeal wall and extent of anterior movement of the arytenoid increased significantly from 2 weeks to 3 months in the surgical patients. At 2 weeks postsurgery, patients who had undergone supraglottic laryngectomy exhibited significantly shorter airway closure and tongue base to pharyngeal wall contact, reduced laryngeal elevation, increased width of cricopharyngeal (CP) opening, and later onset of airway closure and tongue base movement than normal subjects. These significant differences remained at 3 months postoperatively, although swallow measures were moving toward normal in the patients who had undergone supraglottic laryngectomy. Comparison of patients not eating at 2 weeks with patients at the time of first eating revealed significantly longer duration of tongue base contact to the pharyngeal wall, longer duration of airway closure, and greater movement of the arytenoid in patients who were eating. Results indicate that the focus of swallowing therapy after supraglottic laryngectomy should be on improvement of posterior movement of the tongue base and anterior tilting of the arytenoid to close the airway entrance and improve bolus propulsion (in the case of the tongue base).
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