Head and Neck Diseases and Disorders Causing Oropharyngeal Dysphagia

Nicole Pizzorni, Daniela Ginocchio, Francesco Mozzanica, Luca Roncoroni, Letizia Scarponi, Antonio Schindler


The swallowing mechanism requires the coordinated movements of several structures of the head and neck region; it is therefore not surprising that diseases of the mouth, pharynx, larynx and cervical spine can lead to dysphagia. Although each disorder per se is relatively rare, the combination of all clinical situation represents an important group of clinical conditions that can not be overlooked. Self-perception of dysphagia is usually high as the impairment often involves the oral phase or is due to pain or obstruction. This review focus on the most common and important clinical conditions of the head and neck districts associated with dysphagia: head and neck cancer and impairments associated with its treatment, Zenker’s diverticulum, head and neck infections, cervical spine disorders and cranial nerves deficits. Head and Neck disorders may impair swallowing through different mechanisms; symptoms, dysphagia severity, treatment options and prognosis for this variety of clinical situations vary enormously. Clinicians involved in the management of oro-pharyngeal dysphagia should be aware of the different diseases of this area and build teams or connections with different medical specialists in order to guarantee the best treatment option for each patient.


Cancer, Zenker’s diverticulum; Dysphagia; Larynx; Pharynx; Cervical ostephytes

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