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Resection of the sternocleidomastoid muscle during radical neck dissection

  • Head and neck surgery
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European Archives of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology Aims and scope Submit manuscript


Background: Surgical therapy of lymph node metastasis is based on accessibility for en bloc resection. First described as “radical neck dissection”, this original approach has since undergone various modifications. This has produced controversy about the particular indications for the individual techniques. The aim of this study was to evaluate whether intraoperative macroscopic inspection of the sternocleidomastoid muscle (SCM) in regard to tumor infiltration is sufficient to decide about muscle resection and whether there are prognostic differences between patients undergoing radical-versus modified radical (selective) neck dissection. Materials and methods: In a retrospective study, data on the surgical treatment of cervical lymph nodes and survival rates from 438 patients with head and neck malignancies managed in our department between 1988 and 1994 were analyzed in 1994 and again in 1999. Results: 337 patients (76.9%) underwent unilateral or bilateral selective neck dissection. In 101 patients (23.1%) a radical neck dissection was performed and the SCM was completely resected. Analysis of these cases showed intraoperative macroscopic tumor invasion of the SCM in 12 patients (11.9%), which could be confirmed histologically. In the remaining 89 cases (88.1%), a macroscopically intact muscle was resected; in none of these cases did histopathological examination show tumor infiltration of the SCM. Analysis of radically or selectively neck dissected stage III or IV patients with oral cavity, oropharyngeal, hypopharyngeal or laryngeal carcinomas did not show statistical differences in 2-, 5- and 10-year survival (54.8%, 23.7%, 18.7% versus 62.6%, 25.6%, 21.8%, respectively). Conclusions: (1) Intraoperative inspection of the SCM constitutes a valid parameter for deciding whether tumor infiltration is present or not. (2) There were no prognostic differences (2-year, 5-year and 10-year-survival) between stage III and IV patients with oral cavity, oropharyngeal, hypopharyngeal and laryngeal carcinomas treated by either radical or selective neck dissection.

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Received: 23 January 2001 / Accepted: 8 March 2001

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Jaehne, M., Ußmüller, J. & Kehrl, W. Resection of the sternocleidomastoid muscle during radical neck dissection. European Archives of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology 258, 192–197 (2001).

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