Short-term and long-term quality of life after neck dissection

Head Neck. 2001 Nov;23(11):954-61. doi: 10.1002/hed.1138.


Introduction: Quality of life (QOL) is an important outcome measure in cancer therapy. Neck dissection (ND) morbidity has been well studied, but no study has focused on the quality of life after ND specifically.

Methods: Fifty-one patients who have undergone ND completed a 6-item quality-of-life survey with a 7-point frequency and interference response scale. General QOL and comorbidity biases were evaluated with the SF-12 questionnaire and the Charlson comorbidity index.

Results: The following symptoms were the most commonly experienced after surgery: neck tightness (71%), numbness or burning of the ear (57%), and shoulder discomfort (53%). However, interference with daily activities was reported by only 37%, 32%, and 33% of patients with these symptoms, respectively. Within 2 years of surgery, interference with daily activities decreased to 17%, 18%, and 12%, respectively. QOL after ND was negatively associated with previous radiation, previous chemotherapy, tumor stage, and more radical neck surgery but was positively associated with time after surgery. Shoulder discomfort and neck tightness had the greatest affect on QOL.

Conclusions: Our results suggest that patients should receive preoperative counseling regarding the morbidities from ND and the possible short-term and long-term impact on QOL. Further studies evaluating the relationship between primary tumor characteristics and quality of life after ND need to be undertaken.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / pathology
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Lymph Node Excision*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Quality of Life*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires