Cervicofacial and Pharyngolaryngeal Lymphedema and Deglutition After Head and Neck Cancer Treatment

A Correction to this article was published on 10 October 2019

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One of the sequelae of head and neck cancer treatment is secondary lymphedema, with important impact on breathing, swallowing and vocal functions. The aim of the study was to assess the presence, staging characteristics and relationship of external and internal lymphedema and dysphagia after head and neck cancer treatment. The MDACC Lymphedema Rating Scale in Head and Neck Cancer was employed for the assessment and staging of face and neck lymphedema; the Radiotherapy Edema Scale for internal lymphedema; and a fiberoptic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing (FEES) for swallowing. The sample consisted of 46 patients with a diagnosis of head and neck cancer. Lymphedema was detected in 97.8% (45) of the evaluations with predominance of the composite type (73.9%—34). A high percentage of external lymphedema of the neck (71.7%—33) and submandibular (63%—29) were detected, with predominance of the more advanced levels. Internal edema was found in almost all structures and spaces at moderate/severe level. At FEES, residue (higher percentage in valleculae and pyriform sinus), penetration and aspirations were observed. The residue was detected in higher occurrence in patients with composite lymphedema (p = 0.012). The combined treatment with radiotherapy was related to submandibular external lymphedema (p = 0.009), altered pharyngolaryngeal sensitivity (0.040), presence of residue (p = 0.001) and penetration to pasty (p = 0.007) and internal edema in almost all structures. There was also a higher percentage of residue in cases with internal altered pharyngolaryngeal sensitivity, residue, penetration and aspiration. Combined treatment with radiotherapy is an associated factor of edema. Cervicofacial and pharyngolaryngeal lymphedema is a frequent event after treatment for HNC, with important impact on swallowing performance characterised by altered pharyngolaryngeal sensitivity, residue, penetration and aspiration. Combined treatment with radiotherapy is an associated factor.

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  • 10 October 2019

    The original version of this article unfortunately contained a mistake. Figure 2 was repeated in Figure 3.


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Correspondence to Débora dos Santos Queija.

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Queija, D.S., Dedivitis, R.A., Arakawa-Sugueno, L. et al. Cervicofacial and Pharyngolaryngeal Lymphedema and Deglutition After Head and Neck Cancer Treatment. Dysphagia 35, 479–491 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00455-019-10053-6

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  • Lymphedema
  • Head and neck neoplasms
  • Neck dissection
  • Radiotherapy
  • Deglutition disorders
  • Deglutition