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Head Neck. 2003 Nov;25(11):953-9.

Salvage of recurrent head and neck squamous cell carcinoma after primary curative surgery.

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  • 1Division of Otorhinolaryngology, Department of Surgery, Queen Mary Hospital, Pokfulam Road, Hong Kong, China.



The efficacy of salvage treatment of recurrent head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC) after primary curative surgery was evaluated.


The management outcome of 377 patients who had recurrent squamous cell carcinoma of oral cavity, oropharynx, hypopharynx, and larynx after primary curative surgery was reviewed.


The surgical salvage rates of recurrence were 29% local, 30% tracheostomal, 56% unilateral nodal recurrence of previously undissected neck, 32% of unilateral neck recurrence after prior neck dissection, and 11% lung metastasis. The 5-year tumor-free actuarial survival rates of those patients who received surgical salvage was 35% for local recurrence, 32% for unilateral nodal recurrence of the previously undissected neck, and 18% for nodal recurrence of the previously dissected neck. One patient of six with tracheostomal recurrence salvaged with surgery and one patient of six with lung metastasis salvaged with lobectomy survived without tumor at 5 years. There was no 5-year survivor of all patients salvaged with other nonsurgical methods. The mean survival of patients without surgical salvage was 6 months.


There was a moderate chance of cure after surgical salvage of locoregional recurrent HNSCC. Surgical salvage was, however, only feasible for early recurrent tumor. Close follow-up surveillance of early recurrence is essential after primary treatment of patients.

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