The decision whether to perform an elective neck dissection in patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) and clinically negative lymph nodes (cN0) is made based on the probability of micrometastases in the neck for the given subsite and size of the primary. To date there is limited information about contralateral and bilateral cervical lymph node metastases of oropharyngeal carcinoma.
A retrospective chart review was performed of 352 patients with oropharyngeal SCC who received a bilateral neck dissection. The frequency of histologically unveiled bilateral neck metastases was determined.
Carcinomas of the tonsillar fossa starting with a T2 classification and carcinomas of the soft palate, base of tongue, and pharyngeal wall at any stage showed a high frequency of bilateral metastases.
Bilateral neck dissection should be recommended for all but T1 and selected cases of T2 carcinomas of the tonsillar fossa. © 2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Head Neck, 2011