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Dysphagia. 2001 Summer;16(3):171-5.

Botulinum toxin in the treatment of cricopharyngeal dysphagia.

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  • 1Department of ENT, Turku University Central Hospital, Finland.


Dysphagia is a common symptom in various neurological disorders affecting pharyngeal functions. Cricopharyngeal dysfunction is one of the major findings in these patients. The most effective treatment for restoring normal swallowing function in persistent cricopharyngeal dysfunction is cricopharyngeal myotomy, especially when mechanical obstruction or a well-localized neuromuscular dysfunction, such as a cricopharyngeal muscle spasm, is present. However, when there is a more diffuse neurological disorder present the results of surgery are more disappointing. In unclear cases, or in patients with temporary problems, no good method other than swallowing training, bougienage, and tube feeding are available. During the past decade, botulinum toxin has been found to be of therapeutic value in the treatment of a variety of neurological disorders associated with inappropriate muscular contractions such as torticollis and spasmodic dysphonia. Recently, injections of botulinum toxin in patients with cricopharyngeal muscle dysfunction have been reported to result in marked relief of dysphagia. In this article we describe our experiences with botulinum toxin injections to treat four patients suffering from deglutition problems and cricopharyngeal dysphagia of different origins. Botulinum toxin was injected into the cricopharyngeus muscle that was identified by endoscopy under general anesthesia. In this study, no major side effects were observed. Three patients obtained a significant improvement of esophageal symptoms after the first injection. The treatment had limited effect in one patient who had reflux disease and only slight cricopharyngeus dysfunction.

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