Publication Date



JAMA Otolaryngology Head & Neck Surgery


IMPORTANCE: Controversy exists regarding management of the clinically node-negative neck in patients with recurrent larynx or hypopharynx cancers who received total laryngectomy after definitive radiation with or without chemotherapy.

OBJECTIVE: To explore clinical and oncologic outcomes after elective neck dissection vs observation in patients who received clinically node-negative salvage total laryngectomy.

DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: This cohort study was performed from January 2009 to June 2021 at a single, high-volume tertiary care center. Follow-up was conducted through June 2021 for all patients. Survival outcomes were based on at least 2 years of follow-up. Patients aged 18 years or older with recurrent, clinically node-negative larynx or hypopharynx tumors after definitive nonsurgical treatment who were treated with a salvage total laryngectomy were included. Data were analyzed from October 2021 through September 2022.

EXPOSURES: Elective neck dissection.

MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: Presence and location of occult nodal metastasis in electively dissected necks, along with differences in fistula rates and overall and disease-free survival between patients receiving elective neck dissection vs observation.

RESULTS: Among 107 patients receiving clinically node-negative salvage total laryngectomy (median [IQR] age, 65.0 [57.8-71.3] years; 91 [85.0%] men), 81 patients underwent elective neck dissection (75.7%) and 26 patients underwent observation (24.3%). Among patients with elective neck dissection, 13 patients had occult nodal positivity (16.0%). Recurrent supraglottic (4 of 20 patients [20.0%]) or advanced T classification (ie, T3-T4; 12 of 61 patients [19.7%]) had an occult nodal positivity rate of 20% or more, and positive nodes were most likely to occur in levels II and III (II: 6 of 67 patients [9.0%]; III: 6 of 65 patients [9.2%]; VI: 3 of 44 patients [6.8%]; IV: 3 of 62 patients [4.8%]; V: 0 of 4 patients; I: 0 of 18 patients). There was a large difference in fistula rate between elective neck dissection (12 patients [14.8%]) and observed (8 patients [30.8%]) groups (difference, 16.0 percentage points; 95% CI, -3.4 to 35.3 percentage points), while the difference in fistula rate was negligible between 50 patients undergoing regional or free flap reconstruction (10 patients [20.0%]) vs 57 patients undergoing primary closure (10 patients [17.5%]) (difference, 2.5 percentage points; 95% CI, -12.4 to 17.3 percentage points). Undergoing elective neck dissection was not associated with a clinically meaningful improvement in overall or disease-free survival compared with observation. Recurrent hypopharynx subsite was associated with an increased risk of death (hazard ratio, 4.28; 95% CI, 1.81 to 10.09) and distant recurrence (hazard ratio, 7.94; 95% CI, 2.07 to 30.48) compared with glottic subsite.

CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: In this cohort study, patients with recurrent supraglottic or advanced T classification tumors had an increased occult nodal positivity rate, elective neck dissection was not associated with survival, and patients with recurrent hypopharynx subsite were more likely to have a distant recurrence and die of their disease. These findings suggest that underlying disease pathology rather than surgical management may be associated with survival outcomes in this population.


Male, Humans, Aged, Female, Cohort Studies, Laryngectomy, Laryngeal Neoplasms, Salvage Therapy, Neoplasm Recurrence, Local, Elective Surgical Procedures, Hypopharyngeal Neoplasms, Retrospective Studies



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