OBJECTIVES: Oral and oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma puts the patient at risk for bilateral neck lymph node metastasis. For this reason, routine bilateral neck dissection is preferred by some surgeons as the treatment of choice, even in N0-necks, despite the morbidity of this procedure.
METHODS: Utilising data of 496 patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck region treated at the Department of Otorhinolaryngology and Head and Neck at the Medical University Hospital, Graz from 1999 to 2009, we retrospectively evaluated the effect of bilateral neck dissection on recurrence-free and overall survival rates in patients with oral and oropharyngeal cancer.
RESULTS: Long-term survival of 152 patients with oral and oropharyngeal cancer did not show a statistical benefit of elective contralateral neck dissection in patients with contralateral clinically negative neck. Neither locoregional recurrence-free survival nor overall survival rates differed.
CONCLUSION: We could not find a statistical benefit for operating on patients with oral and oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma with an elective neck dissection in contralateral clinically negative neck.