The impact of prophylactic external carotid artery ligation on postoperative bleeding after transoral robotic surgery (TORS) for oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma

John Gleysteen, Scott Troob, Tyler Light, Daniel Brickman, Daniel Clayburgh, Peter Andersen, Neil Gross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

15 Scopus citations


Background Transoral robotic-assisted surgery (TORS) is increasingly utilized in the treatment of oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OPSCC). Postoperative bleeding is a significant and potentially fatal complication of TORS. Prophylactic ligation of ipsilateral external carotid artery (ECA) branches is a recognized strategy to reduce postoperative bleeding risk. We examined the incidence and sequelae of postoperative oropharyngeal bleeding with and without routine ECA ligation. Methods OPSCC patients treated with TORS between 2010 and 2015 with minimum 30 days follow up were included. Clinicopathological data, operative details, and postoperative course were abstracted for analysis. Cases of postoperative bleeding were classified as Minor, Intermediate, Major, and Severe. The incidence and severity of bleeding was compared between patients treated with and without prophylactic ECA ligation. Results Bleeding after TORS was documented in 13/201 (6.5%) patients. The majority of bleeding episodes were observed among anticoagulated or previously radiated patients. By surgeon preference, 52 patients had prophylactic ECA ligation during neck dissection while the remaining 149 patients did not. There was no significant difference in overall incidence of postoperative bleeding between patients with prophylactic ECA ligation (3/52, 5.8%) and patients without (10/149, 6.7%) [p = 0.53]. However, severe bleeding complications (4, 2.0%) were only observed in patients without prophylactic ligation. Conclusion A small but meaningful risk of bleeding after TORS for OPSCC exists, particularly among anticoagulated or previously radiated patients. Prophylactic ECA ligation did not significantly impact the overall incidence of postoperative bleeding but may reduce the risk of severe (life-threatening) bleeding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-6
Number of pages6
JournalOral Oncology
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1 2017



  • Bleeding
  • Hemorrhage
  • Human papillomavirus
  • Oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma
  • Oropharynx
  • Transoral robotic surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oral Surgery
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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