Severe dysphagia secondary to posterior C1-C3 instrumentation in a patient with atlantoaxial traumatic injury: A case report and review of the literature

Kimon Bekelis, Oren N. Gottfried, Jean Paul Wolinsky, Ziya L. Gokaslan, Ibrahim Omeis*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


There are only a few reports of dysphagia cases in patients who underwent surgery for posterior cervical fusion, but none provides an explanation for the occurrence of dysphagia. To the best of our knowledge this is the first case report showing evidence of severe neurogenic dysphagia, possibly secondary to vagal nerve praxia, in a patient who underwent posterior fusion. A 61-year-old man presented with severe neck pain after he sustained a fall. Imaging studies in the emergency department showed a C2 fracture associated with anterior subluxation of C2 on C3. Given the instability of the injury, a C1-C3 posterior cervical fusion was performed. The surgery was uneventful. The patient's postoperative course was complicated by severe dysphagia. Fluoroscopic and endoscopic assessments of the patient's pharynx and larynx showed significantly decreased epiglottic inversion, hypokinesis of his pharyngeal wall, and decreased hyolaryngeal elevation. There was also mild vocal cord paresis bilaterally, with incomplete approximation of the glottis. He demonstrated intra- and post-deglutitive aspiration. The patient coughed (both immediate and delayed) in response to the aspiration but was not able to clear aspirated material completely from the airway. The patient had a percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) tube placed to provide him with nutrition. He was then discharged home. On postoperative follow-up visit 1 month later, the patient's swallowing function improved and he could tolerate pureed consistencies and thin liquids with tube feed supplement. The patient could swallow without coughing. Possible causes of dysphagia in this case include traumatized airways from anesthesia, mechanical compromise of the upper gastrointestinal tract, and neurogenic dysphagia. After excluding the other possibilities, we concluded that our patient was suffering from neurogenic dysphagia associated with vagal nerve dysfunction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)156-160
Number of pages5
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2010


  • Deglutition
  • Deglutition disorders
  • Dens fracture
  • Neurogenic dysphagia
  • Posterior cervical stabilization
  • Vagus nerve

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Speech and Hearing


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