Swallowing and Voice Problems after Anterior Cervical Surgery

Patient Experience

  • Reference Number: HEY-948/2017
  • Departments: Speech and Language
  • Last Updated: 2 November 2017

Following your anterior cervical surgery

You may experience some swallowing and/or voice changes following your anterior cervical surgery. This could be due to stretching of the nerves which supply the vocal cords during surgery, or as a result of post-operative swelling. You may find that eating food is more difficult due to this swelling and/or feel a ‘lump’ sensation in the throat.  In the majority of cases, this does improve and recovers fully. However, some people will continue to have a persistent swallowing and/or voice problems, which will need support from a Speech and Language Therapist.

If you experience these problems a doctor or nurse will refer you to Speech and Language Therapy.

What happens next?

A Speech and Language Therapist will assess your swallow and your voice quality. They will then make recommendations to ensure that you are able to swallow food and drink safely and help you to look after your voice.

Whether or not these symptoms last a short time or are long-standing, early assessment of your swallowing by a Speech and Language Therapist is important.  This is to reduce or eliminate the risk of aspiration (food going down the wrong way).

General swallowing and voice advice following surgery

Basic safe swallowing advice:

  1. Eat / drink / take medications in an upright position
  2. Steady eating and drinking rate – do not rush, take single sips of fluid
  3. Take small bites, chew your food very well
  4. Do not talk whilst you are eating

How to look after your voice:

  1. Avoid smoking – as this causes the throat and vocal cords to become inflamed and swollen from the dryness, heat and tar from the tobacco smoke.
  2. Drink plenty of fluids – to keep your vocal cords healthy, your body needs enough fluid. The general opinion is that 8 glasses (2 litres) of fluid e.g. water, diluted squash a day is about right.
  3. Avoid caffeine – fluids such as tea, coffee, and fizzy drinks contain caffeine which dehydrates your body.  Caffeine also has a drying effect on the vocal cords.
  4. Avoid alcohol – alcohol causes the vocal cords to become dry and inflamed as well as having a dehydrating effect.
  5. Avoid throat clearing / coughingas this can irritate your vocal cords and they can become sore and swollen, causing voice changes.  Try to take sips of water instead.

Should you require any further advice on the issues contained in this leaflet, please do not hesitate to contact the Speech and Language Therapy Department on telephone number: (01482) 604331

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