JOURNAL ARTICLE
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A longitudinal study of functional outcomes after surgical resection and microvascular reconstruction for oral cancer: tongue mobility and swallowing function.

PURPOSE: Controversy exists regarding physiologic outcomes related to the tongue after radial forearm free flap (RFFF) reconstruction of hemiglossectomy defects. The purpose of this study is to report swallowing and tongue mobility outcomes for patients with RFFF reconstruction of the anterior two thirds of the tongue.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Swallowing and tongue mobility were assessed at 4 different time points over the course of 1 year of treatment for 15 patients who underwent RFFF reconstruction of the anterior two thirds of the tongue. Preoperative swallowing function in the treatment group was compared with a patient group that had no involvement of the tongue. A comparison group of 14 patients with nasopharyngeal cancer was used to compare preintervention function in patients with and without lesions of the tongue.

RESULTS: No differences existed between the experimental and comparison groups before intervention. Two significant differences were found for swallowing ability and tongue mobility in the experimental group. Some of the measures at 1 month postoperatively were significantly different from some of the preoperative measures for liquid swallows and posterior-tongue mobility. All measures returned to baseline by the study's end.

CONCLUSION: Although some minor deficits exist in swallowing and tongue mobility after RFFF reconstruction, it appears that these problems are no longer evident 12 months postoperatively.

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