Monday, March 28, 2011

Osteophytes and Difficulty Swallowing

Did you know that bony changes of the spine are a common cause of dysphagia (difficulty swallowing)?  They can occur at one or more levels in the spine, usually above or at the level of the voice box.  Osteophytes occur due to degenerative changes of the spine, and sometimes as part of a disorder called diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis.  Treatment depends on the severity of symptoms, and can range from observation (most cases) to surgery to remove the bony growths. 

In this photo, the osteophyte between the vertebrae of C4 and C5 severely narrows the throat just above the voice box, leading to trouble swallowing food and pills.

Osteophytes can be diagnosed with laryngoscopy, an outpatient office-based procedure without sedation, and confirmed using an xray of the spine or a CT scan of the cervical spine.