Prediction of neck dissection requirement after definitive radiotherapy for head-and-neck squamous cell carcinoma

Juliette Thariat, K. Kian Ang, Pamela K. Allen, Anesa Ahamad, Michelle D. Williams, Jeffrey N. Myers, Adel K. El-Naggar, Lawrence E. Ginsberg, David I. Rosenthal, Bonnie S. Glisson, William H. Morrison, Randal S. Weber, Adam S. Garden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Background: This analysis was undertaken to assess the need for planned neck dissection in patients with a complete response (CR) of involved nodes after irradiation and to determine the benefit of a neck dissection in those with less than CR by tumor site. Methods: Our cohort included 880 patients with T1-4, N1-3M0 squamous cell carcinoma of the oropharynx, larynx, or hypopharynx who received treatment between 1994 and 2004. Survival curves were calculated by the Kaplan-Meier Method, comparisons of rates with the log-rank test and prognostic factors by Cox's proportional hazard model. Results: Nodal CR occurred in 377 (43%) patients, of whom 365 patients did not undergo nodal dissection. The 5-year actuarial regional control rate of patients with CR was 92%. Two hundred sixty-eight of the remaining patients (53%) underwent neck dissections. The 5-year actuarial regional control rate for patients without a CR was 84%. Those who had a neck dissection fared better with 5-year actuarial regional control rates of 90% and 76% for those operated and those not operated (p < 0.001). Variables associated with poorer regional control rates included higher T and N stage, non-oropharynx cancers, non-CR, both clinical and pathological. Conclusions: With 92% 5-year neck control rate without neck dissection after CR, there is little justification for systematic neck dissection. The addition of a neck dissection resulted in higher neck control after partial response though patients with viable tumor on pathology specimens had poorer outcomes. The identification of that subgroup that benefits from additional treatment remains a challenge.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e367-e374
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Head-and-neck cancer
  • Neck dissection
  • Neck nodes
  • Radiation therapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiation
  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cancer Research


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