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Lymph Node Yield and Ratio in Selective and Modified Radical Neck Dissection in Head and Neck Cancer-Impact on Oncological Outcome.

Cancers 2021 May 5
Background : Lymph node metastases are associated with poor prognosis in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). Neck dissection (ND) is often performed prior to or after (chemo)radiation (CRT) and is an integral part of HNSCC treatment strategies. The impact of CRT delivered prior to ND on lymph node yield (LNY) and lymph node ratio (LNR) has not been comprehensively investigated. Material and methods: A retrospective cohort study was conducted from January 2014 to 30 June 2019 at the University Hospital of Bern, Switzerland. We included 252 patients with primary HNSCC who underwent NDs either before or after CRT. LNY and LNR were compared in patients undergoing ND prior to or after CRT. A total of 137 and 115 patients underwent modified radical ND (levels I to V) and selective ND, respectively. The impact of several features on survival and disease control was assessed. Results: Of the included patients, 170 were male and 82 were females. There were 141 primaries from the oral cavity, 55 from the oropharynx, and 28 from the larynx. ND specimens showed a pN0 stage in 105 patients and pN+ in 147. LNY, but LNR was not significantly higher in patients undergoing upfront ND than in those after CRT (median: 38 vs. 22, p < 0.0001). Cox hazard ratio regression showed that an LNR ≥ 6.5% correlated with poor overall (HR 2.42, CI 1.12-4.89, p = 0.014) and disease-free survival (HR 3.416, CI 1.54-754, p = 0.003) in MRND. Conclusion: ND after CRT leads to significantly reduced LNY. An LNR ≥6.5% is an independent risk factor for decreased overall, disease-free, and distant metastasis-free survival for MRND.

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