Objectives: Selective neck dissection, despite preservation of the spinal accessory nerve, can lead to some degree of postoperative shoulder dysfunction as a result of removal of level IIb lymph nodes. The aim of this study was to determine whether level IIb lymph nodes can be preserved in elective or therapeutic neck dissection as a treatment for patients with laryngeal squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).
Study Design: This was a prospective analysis of a case series.
Methods: A prospective analysis of 65 patients with laryngeal SCC who underwent surgical treatment of the primary lesion with simultaneous neck dissection from January 1999 to December 2002 was performed. During the neck dissection, the contents of the level IIb lymph nodes were dissected, labeled, and processed separately from the remainder of level II nodes and the main neck dissection specimen. The incidence of pathologic metastasis to level IIb lymph nodes and the regional recurrence within this area were evaluated. In addition, several potential risk factors for metastatic disease in the level IIb lymph nodes such as sex, age, cT stage, cN stage, and the presence of other positive lymph nodes were also evaluated.
Results: A total of 125 neck dissections were performed in this series. Of these dissections, 102 (82%) were elective and 23 (18%) were therapeutic. The prevalence of metastases in the level IIb lymph nodes was 1% (one of 46) and 0% (zero of 56) in clinically node-negative (N0) ipsilateral and contralateral necks, respectively, and 37% (seven of 19) and 0% (zero of four) in clinically node-positive ipsilateral and contralateral necks, respectively. There was a statistically significant association between level IIb metastases and clinically positive N stage (P < .001). The presence of other positive lymph nodes was also shown to have a statistically significant association with metastasis in the level IIb lymph nodes (P = .001). Only two of 46 patients (4%) with clinically N0 necks developed a regional recurrence. However, three of eight cases (38%) with positive pathologic level IIb lymph nodes developed regional recurrence.
Conclusion: Level IIb lymph node pads may be preserved in elective neck dissection in patients with laryngeal SCC. However, this area should be removed thoroughly during therapeutic neck dissection in the treatment of clinically node-positive necks.