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Head Neck. 2013 Dec;35(12):1726-31. doi: 10.1002/hed.23214. Epub 2013 Mar 6.

Surgical salvage for recurrent retropharyngeal lymph node metastasis in nasopharyngeal carcinoma.

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Division of Head and Neck Surgery, Department of Surgery, University of Hong Kong Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, Queen Mary Hospital, Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region, China.



The purpose of this study was to analyze the surgical management of recurrent retropharyngeal lymph node metastasis after radiotherapy for nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC).


We conducted a prospective analysis of preoperative imaging, surgical approach, and oncological results.


Between 1990 and 2011, 82 patients were included. The mean size of the retropharyngeal lymph node on MRI was 1.6 cm, and the mean standardized uptake value maximum (SUVmax) on positron emission tomography (PET) scan was 6.8. All the retropharyngeal lymph nodes were resected via the maxillary swing approach. Among the resected retropharyngeal lymph nodes, 87.8% contained viable tumor cells. The rate of microscopic extracapsular spread was 30.6%. The mean follow-up duration was 38 months. The 5-year actuarial tumor control and the overall disease-free survival of patients who underwent surgeries for isolated recurrent retropharyngeal lymph node metastasis was 79.6% and 59%, respectively.


A PET scan is potentially useful in diagnosing persistent or recurrent retropharyngeal lymph node after previous radiotherapy for NPC. The maxillary swing approach allows surgical resection with clear margins in order to achieve the best oncological outcome.


maxillary swing operation; nasopharyngeal carcinoma; recurrent; residual; retropharyngeal lymph node

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