• conservation laryngeal surgery;
  • radiation failure;
  • glottic cancer;
  • squamous carcinoma of the head and neck;
  • salvage surgery



Total laryngectomy is the standard of care for surgical salvage of radiation failure in laryngeal cancer. However, the role of conservation laryngeal surgery in this setting remains unclear. The objective was to compare the efficacy of conservation versus total laryngectomy for salvage of radiation failure in patients who initially presented with T1 or T2 squamous cancer of the larynx.


A 21-year retrospective analysis of patients who received surgery at a single comprehensive cancer center after definitive radiation therapy is reported. At recurrence, the patients were reevaluated and then underwent a total laryngectomy or, if possible, a conservation laryngeal procedure. The charts of 105 patients who failed radiation treatment for primary laryngeal cancer and who subsequently underwent surgical salvage were reviewed for this study. Eighty-nine were male (84.8%). The mean age was 60.3 years. The median follow-up time after surgery was 69.4 months. Most patients with recurrence after radiotherapy required total laryngectomy (69.5%; 73/105). Conservation laryngeal surgery was performed for 32 patients (31.5%). Concomitant neck dissections were performed on 45 patients (45.5%).


In 14 patients, local or regional recurrence developed after salvage surgery: 9 patients after total laryngectomy (12.3%; 9/73), and 5 patients (15.6%; 5/32) after conservation laryngeal surgery. This difference was not statistically significant, nor was there a difference in disease-free interval for the two procedures (p = .634, by log-rank test). Distant metastasis developed in 13 patients. Most developed in the setting of local and/or regional recurrence, but distant metastasis occurred as the only site of failure in 6 of the patients who had undergone total laryngectomy but in 1 of the conservation surgery patients treated for a supraglottic laryngeal cancer. The overall mortality for patients who underwent total laryngectomy was also higher: 73.74% (54/73) versus 59.4% (19/32) for patients who underwent a conservation approach (p = .011 by log-rank test).


Although conservation laryngeal surgery was possible in a few patients with local failure after radiotherapy, conservation laryngeal surgery is an oncologically sound alternative to total laryngectomy for these patients. © 2006 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Head Neck, 2006