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J Oral Rehabil. 2014 Feb;41(2):133-40. doi: 10.1111/joor.12116. Epub 2013 Nov 29.

The relationship between lingual and hypoglossal nerve function and quality of life in head and neck cancer.

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Special Education, Santa Barbara County Education Office, Santa Maria, CA, USA.


Sensorimotor impairment of the tongue has the potential to affect speech and swallowing. The purpose of this study was to critically examine the effects of nerve preservation and reinnervation after reconstruction of the base of tongue on patient-perceived outcomes of quality of life (QoL) related to speech and swallowing through completion of the EORTC QLQ-H&N35 standardised questionnaire. Thirty participants with a diagnosis of base of tongue cancer underwent primary resection and reconstruction with a radial forearm free flap, which may or may not have included nerve repair to the lingual nerve, hypoglossal nerve or both. Eight QoL domains sensitive to changes in motor and sensory nerve function were included in the analysis. Transected lingual and hypoglossal nerves were associated with difficulty in swallowing, social eating, dry mouth and social contact. There were fewer problems reported when these nerves were either repaired or left intact. There were no significant differences between patient nerve status and QoL outcomes for speech, sticky saliva and use of feeding tubes. This study was the first to examine the impact of sensory or motor nerve transection and reconstruction on health-related QoL outcomes.


deglutition; head and neck neoplasms; hypoglossal nerve; lingual nerve transection; quality of life; sensation

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