Dysphagia is common in tracheostomized patients who underwent head and neck surgery for cancer treatment. The objective of this study was to evaluate, by means of oropharyngoesophageal scintigraphy (OPES), the impact of an occluded tracheal tube (TT) on swallowing in patients treated for head and neck cancer before hospital discharge, to provide further information to the benefit of out-patient care management. From October 2018 to November 2019, we enrolled 19 tracheostomized patients (6 females and 13 males; mean age 61 years) who underwent primary surgical resection of head and neck tumor and swallowing rehabilitation during hospitalization. All subjects underwent a double-standard OPES, one with occluded tracheal tube and the other without TT, with their tracheal stoma being closed directly by a plaster. For each study, we assessed and compared the following quantitative parameters: oral transit time (OTTsec), pharyngeal transit time (PTTsec), esophageal transit time (ETTsec), oral retention index (ORI%), pharyngeal retention index (PRI%), esophageal retention index (ERI%), and aspiration percentage (AP%). The mean values of OTT, PTT, ORI%, PRI%, and ERI% were abnormal during OPES both with TT and without TT and did not statistically differ between the two tests (p > 0.05). Aspiration was detected in 4 cases out of 19 (21.05%) cases during OPES with TT and in 4/19 (21.05%) cases without TT who showed a mean AP% of 11.4% and 11.5% respectively (p > 0.05). Patients with abnormal AP% (> 0%) during OPES with TT showed aspiration signs without TT. Our study showed that the mere presence of a closed tracheal tube does not impact significantly the oropharyngeal transit of bolus during swallowing. This result suggests the possibility to maintain a small-diameter occluded tracheal tube in place for the postsurgical management of head and neck cancer patients.
- Deglutition disorders
- Oropharyngoesophageal scintigraphy
- Tracheal tube