The role of interstitial brachytherapy with salvage surgery for the management of recurrent head and neck cancers

Cancer. 2007 May 15;109(10):2052-7. doi: 10.1002/cncr.22648.


Background: The role of interstitial brachytherapy (IBT) in the salvage surgical management of regional lymphatic metastases for head and neck cancer has not been defined to date. To further explore its therapeutic benefit in the management of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma, the authors reviewed their experience utilizing IBT at the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.

Methods: A retrospective chart review of all patients who were received IBT for cervical recurrences of head and neck cancer was undertaken. Twenty-two patients were identified; all patients underwent neck dissection and intraoperative placement of afterloading catheters as part of the salvage treatment. Soft tissue reconstruction was performed when necessary. The duration and dosage of salvage brachytherapy was reviewed, and the overall disease-free survival rates were determined.

Results: All patients had been treated with external beam radiation therapy prior to recurrence, with an average dose of 65 grays (Gy), and 46% of patients had undergone prior neck dissection. The median time to regional recurrence after definitive treatment was 30 months. Soft tissue coverage of the surgical bed with a muscle flap, most commonly a pectoralis major flap, was performed in 19 of 22 patients. The median IBT dose was 60 Gy over a total duration of 4 days. Postoperative complications were few, and there were no perioperative deaths. Recurrences in the reirradiated necks occurred in 27% of patients.

Conclusions: Regional recurrences are common after multimodality treatment for head and neck cancer and are challenging to manage. Although its role has not been defined clearly, salvage neck dissection with IBT is beneficial in the management of recurrent lymphatic metastases of upper aerodigestive tract carcinomas.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Brachytherapy* / adverse effects
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / mortality
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / radiotherapy
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / secondary
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / surgery*
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / mortality
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Middle Aged
  • Neck Dissection
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / radiotherapy
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / surgery*
  • Postoperative Complications
  • Radiotherapy Dosage
  • Salvage Therapy* / adverse effects
  • Survival Rate