Objective: To determine a plan for the management of cervical lymph nodes in patients undergoing salvage laryngeal surgery (SLS) for recurrent/persistent laryngeal cancer after primary radiotherapy (RT).
Study Design: Retrospective chart review.
Methods: Charts of 51 consecutive patients who had salvage total or supracricoid laryngectomy with or without neck dissection for recurrent/persistent laryngeal squamous cell carcinoma after primary RT from 1988 to 2005 in our institution were reviewed. No patients received concomitant or neo-adjuvant chemotherapy. Thirty-four patients underwent SLS along with unilateral or bilateral neck dissection, whereas 17 patients underwent the SLS without neck dissection. Reports of preRT and preSLS staging of the primary tumor and the neck, recorded using the TNM system, were reviewed. Reports of the final histopathologic examination for the excised laryngeal cancer and cervical lymph nodes were reviewed.
Results: Thirty-four patients underwent SLS with unilateral or bilateral neck dissection. The preRT staging of the primary tumor for those 34 patients showed that 32 (94%) were staged T-1 (14) and T-2 (18), whereas the preSLS staging of the primary tumor for those 34 patients showed that 29 (85%) were staged T-3 and T-4. The postSLS final histopathologic examination of the excised lymph nodes in those 34 patients demonstrated that 30 (88%) did not have any evidence of nodal metastasis. On comparing patients with and without nodal metastasis (on their postSLS final histopathology), we found that the preSLS neck staging, based on computed tomographic (CT) scanning of the neck, was significantly associated with the negative/positive postSLS status of nodal metastasis (P = .006). Of 29 patients staged preSLS as N-0, 28 (97%) patients did not have nodal metastasis on their postSLS final pathology (negative predictive value = 97%, confidence interval, 82.2–99.9). PreRT neck staging, preRT and preSLS staging of the primary tumor, along with laryngeal subsite involvement (supraglottis, glottis, subglottis) did not significantly correlate with the status of neck metastasis on final postSLS histopathology (P = .68, 0.78, 0.49, and 0.42, respectively). None of the 34 patients had any neck tumor recurrence in the postSLS follow-up period (median, 3 yr). In addition, all 17 patients who underwent SLS without neck dissection were staged N-0 both before RT as well as preSLS, and none developed neck disease in the postSLS follow-up period (median, 2.5 yr).
Conclusion: Management of the neck in patients undergoing salvage total or supracricoid laryngectomy for laryngeal cancer recurrence/persistence after primary RT should be based on the preSLS CT staging of the neck. Patients staged N-0 preSLS are not likely to harbor occult nodal metastasis and therefore may not require elective neck dissection.