• Transhyoid approach;
  • tongue base cancer;
  • tonsil cancer;
  • postoperative morbidity.


Objective To assess whether transhyoid resection of the tongue base and tonsil lesions is an effective approach to tumors involving this region compared with more traditional anterior surgical approaches that arbitrarily involve either segmental resection or division of the mandible.

Study Design Retrospective review.

Methods Since 1988, we have used a combined transhyoid and transoral approach to resect lesions involving the tongue base, tonsil, or both. Forty-one patients were identified who underwent surgical resection of lesions involving this region via this combined approach during this period. A stage-matched group of 41 patients was also identified in which patients underwent resection via traditional composite or mandibulotomy approaches and was used as a basis for comparison. Factors assessed included status of surgical margins, postoperative complications, degree of postoperative dysphagia, and long-term outcome.

Results Comparison between the two groups revealed similar rates of negative surgical margins. Levels of postoperative dysphagia, notably severe primarily in patients with either T4 or recurrent disease, were also similar between groups. Complication rates, especially with regard to fistula occurrence and mandible-healing problems, were significantly lower in the transhyoid group. Analysis of long-term outcome revealed similar patterns with regard to disease status in both groups.

Conclusions The combined transhyoid and transoral approach is an effective surgical option for a number of lesions affecting the tongue base, tonsil, or both. Although similar to other approaches with regard to postoperative function and disease outcome, the transhyoid approach is associated with decreased postoperative morbidity. However, tumors that e-tend to involve the mandible or pterygoid musculature or skull base are probably best suited for traditional approaches that involve division of the mandible.