The Effects of More Conservative Neck Dissections and Radiotherapy on Nodal Yields From the Neck

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To determine the effects of conservative neck dissections (NDs) and preoperative radiotherapy on the quantitative recovery of lymph nodes from the neck.


Retrospective review of case series. Data were obtained for age, preoperative TNM staging, type of ND, preoperative radiotherapy, total nodal yield (tNY), and positive nodal yield (pNY). The tNY and pNY were analyzed with factorial analysis of variance (ANOVA) to determine differences among types of ND and the effect of radiotherapy.


Tertiary care center for head and neck cancer.


Consecutive sample of 135 NDs in 110 patients with cancer of the head and neck.


A significant difference in tNY was found among dissections (P<.001, ANOVA). Supraomohyoid ND had a significantly lower mean tNY (9.9 nodes) than both radical ND and modified radical ND (21.8 and 26.3 nodes, respectively; P<.05). Functional ND also had a significantly lower tNY (16.1 nodes) than modified radical ND (P<.05); the differences between radical ND and both functional ND and modified radical ND were not statistically significant. Positive nodal yield was not different among the types of dissections (P=.62). Preoperative radiotherapy significantly decreased mean tNY from 22.0 to 17.1 nodes (P=.02) over all types of dissections. Differences in tNY among dissection types were independent of the effect of radiotherapy. The presence or absence of preoperative radiotherapy had no significant effect on pNY (P=.18).


Conservative modifications of the classic radical ND differ with respect to the quantity of cervical lymph nodes excised, but survival may not be altered since the pNY is not significantly different. When compared with the radical ND, the modified radical ND and functional ND do not compromise the quantity of cervical nodes excised. Radiotherapy significantly reduces the quantity of cervical nodes, but a significant number of nodes will still remain.

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