Outcomes of salvage surgery with free flap reconstruction for recurrent oral and oropharyngeal cancer

Laryngoscope. 2010 Feb;120(2):267-72. doi: 10.1002/lary.20743.


Objectives/hypothesis: To evaluate outcomes of salvage surgery with free flap reconstruction for recurrent squamous cell carcinoma of the oropharynx and oral cavity with increased use of chemoradiotherapy.

Study design: Retrospective patient review.

Methods: All patients undergoing salvage surgery with free flap reconstruction for oropharynx (n = 36) and oral cavity (n = 36) squamous cell carcinomas between January 2001 and January 2008 were obtained. Mean follow-up was 14 months. Previous chemoradiotherapy was used in 40% and radiotherapy alone in 60%.

Results: Complications were more frequent in oropharynx than oral cavity tumors (36% and 14%, respectively; P = .05) requiring more secondary procedures (15 for oropharynx vs. six for oral cavity). Few patients returned to a normal diet (8%), and a majority retained an enterogastric feeding tube (56%). Median survival overall following salvage surgery was 44.8 months for oral cavity and 53.8 months for oropharynx head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. Overall estimated 1-, 2-, and 5-year observed survivals were 98%, 77.2%, and 43.7%, respectively. Twelve patients had a disease-free interval of <6 months, 92% of whom died of disease. Of 17 patients with disease at the primary site and involved regional lymph nodes, 94% died of disease.

Conclusions: Salvage surgery with free flap reconstruction for recurrent oral and oropharyngeal tumors after chemoradiotherapy has acceptable morbidity and similar cure rates as salvage following radiotherapy without chemotherapy. Concurrent nodal recurrence and short disease-free interval are associated with reduced cure rates. A significant proportion will require enterogastric feeding and few will tolerate a normal diet.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / mortality
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / surgery*
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mouth Neoplasms / mortality
  • Mouth Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / surgery*
  • Oropharyngeal Neoplasms / mortality
  • Oropharyngeal Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Postoperative Complications
  • Prognosis
  • Salvage Therapy*
  • Surgical Flaps*
  • Survival Rate
  • Treatment Outcome