Research Article| Volume 65, ISSUE 5, P620-628, May 2012

Free jejunal diversionary conduit flaps following radiation damage to the pharynx: A technique for regaining oral feeding while preserving vocal function

Published:December 23, 2011DOI:


      Radiotherapy is an accepted primary treatment modality for head and neck malignancies. However, in severe cases, the chronic radiation damage has resulted in dysphagia, aspiration and choking. Failure in conservative therapeutic strategies for this swallowing dysfunction will result in either preservation of voice with loss of oral feeding, or vice versa. We introduce our surgical technique based on the free jejunal diversionary conduit flaps, which helps patients to resume oral feeding and preserves vocal function, while reducing the risk of aspiration.


      Six patients suffering from swallowing dysfunction following radiotherapy were enrolled. All were dependent on tube feeding. A subcutaneously transferred free jejunal flap connected the left buccogingival sulcus to the cervical oesophagus, which permanently separates the airway from the native aerodigestive tract by creating a new inlet for food passage. Simultaneously created pharyngostomy drains accumulation of saliva and food residue in the epiglottic vallecula and the pyriform sinus. For the cases with tight fibrotic neck skin, we divided this technique into two stages.


      All cases could take at least semi-solid food orally, with some minor complications in the initial four cases. Five cases were independent of tube feeding. Two recent cases with modifications did not experience any complication and could start oral intake much earlier (7 days after surgery) than previous cases (118 days on average).


      The free jejunal diversionary conduit flaps offer post-radiotherapy patients with swallowing dysfunction the option to resume oral feeding while preserving their voice and reducing the risk of aspiration.


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