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Health-related quality of life, functional outcomes, and complications after sentinel lymph node biopsy and elective neck dissection in early oral cancer: A systematic review.

Head & Neck 2023 August 30
BACKGROUND: Elective neck dissection improves survival in early oral cancer. Sentinel lymph node biopsy may also do this with less morbidity. This systematic review compared health-related quality of life, functional outcomes, and complications after sentinel lymph node biopsy and elective neck dissection in early oral cancer.

METHODS: PRISMA guidelines were followed. Thirteen studies met inclusion criteria.

RESULTS: Results favoring sentinel lymph node biopsy were found in complications, scar length and appearance, length of hospital stay, time to drain removal, and objective shoulder measures at timepoints up to 12 months. Where differences in health-related quality of life were found, methodological issues make their clinical significance questionable.

CONCLUSIONS: Sentinel lymph node biopsy was associated with fewer complications and statistically better outcomes in a number of physical measures. There is as yet no strong evidence to suggest it is associated with better health-related quality of life outcomes. While a number of health-related quality of life outcome measures show promise, their interpretation is hampered by methodological concerns. Further rigorous research is required to address this.

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