INTRODUCTION: TNM status is questioned as an exact predictor of survival in different tumour entities. Recently, lymph node ratio (LNR) has been described as a predictor of survival in patients with HNSCC. The purpose of this study was to evaluate to which degree LNR could be used as a more accurate predictor than TNM staging?
METHODS: A total of 291 patients, with a follow-up of at least 3 years, were analyzed using log-rank statistic, univariate and multivariate data analyzes, and p values, for prediction of lymph node ratio on overall and recurrence-free survival.
RESULTS: Survival differed significantly if patients were stratified for LNR. Impact of LNR on survival was significantly different even in patients with extracapsular spread. Patients with pN0 had no survival benefit compared with patients with pN1 or higher with a LNR lower than 6 %.
CONCLUSIONS: LNR is a prognostic tool in patients with a lymph node status pN0-pN2b. LNR remained significant even in patients with extracapsular spread, contrary to TNM status. With LNR, stratification for high-risk patients (higher than 6 % LNR) can be evaluated easily. We would suggest using LNR in the clinical routine.