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Int J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2013 Nov;42(11):1397-402. doi: 10.1016/j.ijom.2013.06.003. Epub 2013 Jul 10.

Automatic upstaging of tongue squamous cell carcinoma with lateral extrinsic muscle involvement is not justified.

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  • 1Oxford Radiology Research Group, Oxford MRI Centre, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, UK.


The TNM classification for oral malignancies has been criticized for its upstaging to T4a when tumour involves styloglossus, hyoglossus, palatoglossus and genioglossus. The aims of this study were to (1) create an anatomical computer atlas of extrinsic tongue musculature, and (2) reassess the original staging of pre-treatment archived magnetic resonance images (MRI) of tongue carcinomas using the strict extrinsic muscle criteria. The anatomy of the extrinsic tongue muscles was mapped using images from the Visible Human Project (VHP) to create a computer model of the extrinsic tongue muscles. This was co-registered with 87 archived pre-staging MRI scans of tongue carcinomas to assess tumour ingress of the extrinsic tongue muscles. Of the 87 image sets reviewed, 16 were of superficial tumours not visible on MRI. In the remaining 71 cases that showed positive extrinsic muscle tumour ingress, 52% were upstaged from T1/2/3 tumours to cT4a based upon this finding. Extrinsic lateral and genioglossus muscle invasion did not predict occult cervical lymph node invasion or disease-related survival. In conclusion, tumour invasion of styloglossus or hyoglossus would result in the majority of lateral tongue tumours being staged T4a. Such stratification is of little clinical relevance, and an alternative more reliable method is required.


TNM staging; genioglossus; hyoglossus; oral carcinoma; palatoglossus; styloglossus; tongue; tumour staging

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