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Swallowing function in patients who underwent hemiglossectomy: comparison of primary closure and free radial forearm flap reconstruction with videofluoroscopy.

The swallowing function of patients who had undergone hemiglossectomy with either primary closure of the defect or radial forearm flap reconstruction was studied with videofluoroscopy. Patients with primary closure were unable to lift the tongue tip, had poor tongue-to-palate contact on initiating swallowing, had premature spilling of the bolus into the pharynx, had a large amount of barium stasis on the floor of the mouth, and had prolonged oral transit time. With flap reconstruction, patients easily could lift the tongue and make good contact with the entire palate. They were able to seal the posterior pharyngeal sphincter by elevation of the reconstructed tongue, approximating it to the soft palate, so that premature spilling of the bolus rarely happened. Their swallowing pattern was nearly normal. Although the reconstructed flap is nonfunctional, it provides bulk and helps the remaining tongue to complete the swallow. Compared with primary closure of the tongue defect, the authors suggest it is better to reconstruct it with a free radial forearm flap when more than 50% of the tongue is resected.

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