Nature and role of surgical margins in transoral laser microsurgery for early and intermediate glottic cancer

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Purpose of review

Summarize recent findings regarding the impact of margin status on oncologic outcomes and organ preservation, as well as evaluate possible management policies of close and positive margins after transoral laser microsurgery (TLM) for Tis-T2 glottic carcinomas.

Recent findings

Impact of margin status on survival rates remains controversial, whereas some authors found close and positive margins to be independent risk factors for recurrence and poorer survival rates, others did not find any significant variations compared with negative ones. A common trend can be observed in performing a watchful waiting policy or second look TLM in patients with close-superficial and positive single-superficial margins. Further treatment seems preferable in case of deep and positive multiple superficial margins.


Positive margins are present in up to 50% of patients treated by TLM, even though a high rate of false positivity, reaching 80%, has been described. Close and positive single superficial margins seem to be linked to higher recurrence rates compared with negative margins, even though watchful wait and see policy, especially when performed by adjunctive visual aids like Narrow Band Imaging, maintains good final oncological and organ preservation outcomes. Further treatments are required in case of deep margin positivity.

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