• head and neck cancer;
  • neck dissection;
  • neck pain;
  • loss of sensation;
  • range of motion



Studies on morbidity of the neck after head and neck cancer therapy are scarcely described.


Patients who underwent surgery, including neck dissection, with and without radiation therapy at least 1 year before the study were asked to participate. We assessed neck pain, loss of sensation, range of motion of the cervical spine, and shoulder pain.


Of the 220 patients who were invited, 153 (70%) participated in the study. Neck pain was present in 33% of the patients (n = 51), and shoulder pain was present in 37% of the patients (n = 57). Neuropathic pain of the neck was present in 32% (n = 49); myofascial pain, in 46% (n = 70); and joint pain, in 24% (n = 37). Loss of sensation of the neck was present in 65% (n = 99) and was related to type of neck dissection and radiation therapy. Range of motion of the neck was significantly decreased because of the neck dissection and/or radiation therapy in lateral flexion away from the operated side.


The occurrences of morbidity of the neck after cancer therapy were considerable and consisted of neck pain, loss of sensation, and decreased range of motion. © 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Head Neck26: 785–791, 2004