Comparison of Output Volume Thresholds for Drain Removal After Selective Lateral Neck Dissection: A Randomized Clinical Trial

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ImportanceLimited evidence is available to guide drain removal after selective lateral neck dissection (SLND). Patients may have drains left in longer than necessary, leading to patient discomfort, longer hospitalizations, and increased costs.ObjectiveTo compare 2 output volume thresholds for drain removal after SLND.Design, Setting, and ParticipantsThis single-blind randomized clinical trial included a consecutive sample of all adult patients undergoing unilateral or bilateral SLND of levels I to III, I to IV, II to III, or II to IV from March 1, 2015, to December 1, 2016, at a tertiary academic medical center. Eligible patients had at least 30 days of follow-up. Patients undergoing a parotidectomy, a level V lymphadenectomy, or an SLND that communicated with the upper aerodigestive tract or who had a suspected chylous fistula on the first postoperative day were excluded from enrollment. Sixty-five patients were offered enrollment and 12 refused. Fifty-three patients who underwent 67 SLNDs were included in the final analysis, with no patients lost to follow-up. Analysis was based on intention to treat.InterventionsOn the first postoperative day, patients were randomized to either a drain removal threshold of less than 30 mL or less than 100 mL during a 24-hour period.Main Outcomes and MeasuresDuration of drain use, hospital length of stay, and wound complications for both groups.ResultsAmong the 53 patients with 67 SLNDs included in the analysis (45 men [85%] and 8 women [15%]; mean age, 58.5 years [95% CI, 53.2-64.5 years]), 32 SLNDs were randomized to the 100-mL group and 35 were randomized to the 30-mL group. No meaningful differences in preoperative characteristics were noted between groups. Two seromas occurred in the 100-mL group (2 of 32 [6.3%; 95% CI, 0%-13.5%]) and in the 30-mL group (2 of 35 [5.7%; 95% CI, 0%-14.6%]). No hematomas, chylous fistulas, or wound infections occurred. The 100-mL group had a 1.87-day reduction in mean hospital length of stay (95% CI, 0.66-3.10 days).Conclusions and RelevanceA volume threshold for drain removal of 100 mL during a 24-hour period after SLNDs appears to be safe and may significantly reduce duration of drain use and hospital length of stay.Trial Identifier: NCT03113526

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