BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Primary (chemo)radiation (CHRT) for HNC may lead to late dysphagia. The purpose of this study was to assess the pattern of swallowing disorders based on prospectively collected objective videofluoroscopic (VF) assessment and to assess the correlations between VF findings and subjective (physician- and patient-rated) swallowing measures.
MATERIAL AND METHODS: 189 consecutive HNC patients receiving (CH)RT were included. Swallowing evaluation at baseline and 6 months after treatment (T6) encompassed: CTCAE v.4.0 scores (aspiration/dysphagia), PROMs: SWAL QOL/ EORTC QLQ-H&N35 (swallowing domain) questionnaires and VF evaluation: Penetration Aspiration Scale, semi-quantitative swallowing pathophysiology evaluation, temporal measures and oral/pharyngeal residue quantification. Aspiration specific PROMs (aPROMs) were selected. Correlations between late penetration/aspiration (PA_T6) and: clinical factors, CTCAE and aPROMs were assessed using uni- and multivariable analysis.
RESULTS: Prevalence of PA increased from 20% at baseline to 43% after treatment (p<0.001).The most relevant baseline predictors for PA_T6 were: PA_T0, age, disease stage III-IV, bilateral RT and baseline aPROM 'Choking when drinking' (AUC: 0.84). In general aPROMs correlated better with VF-based PA than CTCAE scores. The most of physiological swallowing components significantly correlated and predictive for PA (i.e. Laryngeal Vestibular Closure, Laryngeal Elevation and Pharyngeal Contraction) were prone to radiation damage.
CONCLUSION: The risk of RT-induced PA is substantial. Presented prediction models for late penetration/aspiration may support patient selection for baseline and follow-up VF examination. Furthermore, all aspiration related OARs involved in aforementioned swallowing components should be addressed in swallowing sparing strategies. The dose to these structures as well as baseline PROMs should be included in future NTCP models for aspiration.