Background: Radiotherapy is effective treatment for laryngeal carcinoma. Early-stage laryngeal carcinoma has a low incidence of cervical metastasis. Patients initially clinically N0 usually remain N0 when they fail at the primary site. The incidence of subclinical metastasis in these patients is not well described. Watchful waiting or elective neck dissections are advocated. Objective: Examine the incidence of subclinical metastatic disease in patients undergoing elective neck dissections with salvage laryngectomy. Study Design: Prospective study (1991-1996) of patients who failed radiotherapy and underwent salvage laryngectomy with elective neck dissection. Methods: Thirty-four patients underwent salvage laryngectomy with neck dissection (30 bilateral, 4 unilateral). All were clinically N0 at initial presentation and remained N0 at recurrence. Pathologic study of the neck dissection specimens was undertaken. Patients were followed for a minimum of 2 years (mean, 4 y). Results: The male-to-female ratio was 4.5:1, with a mean age of 62 years (range, 38 to 75 y). Metastatic disease was present in 6 patients (17%); 4 of 14 (28%) supraglottic, and 2 of 20 (10%) glottic. Presence of disease in the neck according to stage at recurrence was as follows: T2, 2 of 12; T3, 3 of 14; and T4, 2 of 8. Neck disease was ipsilateral in 4 and contralateral in 2 patients (both supraglottic primaries). Conclusions: Subclinical cervical metastasis may be present in N0 laryngeal carcinoma patients who have recurrence following radiotherapy. Morbidity of a lateral neck dissection is minimal, with excellent control of the neck being possible. Supraglottic and advanced glottic (T3-T4) patients may benefit the most.
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