Prediction of post-treatment trismus in head and neck cancer patients

Br J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2012 Jun;50(4):328-32. doi: 10.1016/j.bjoms.2011.06.009. Epub 2011 Jul 26.


Our aim was to establish the incidence of trismus over time, together with risk factors (including quality of life (QoL)) for the prediction of trismus after treatment in patients with cancer of the head and neck. It was a longitudinal study of 152 patients accepted for primary operation who attended the head and neck cancer clinic of a tertiary referral cancer centre in the United Kingdom. A total of 87 patients was studied prospectively. Our results showed that 41/87 (47%) of patients presented with trismus, 57/80 (71%) had postoperative trismus, and 41/52 (79%) had trismus 6 months after operation or radiotherapy (trismus defined as a maximum mouth opening of ≤ 35 mm). Men and those who drank a lot of alcohol were less likely to have trismus after treatment. QoL variables showed that pain, eating, chewing, taste, saliva, social functioning, social contact, and dry mouth were significantly more impaired in the trismus group than among those without trismus. Postoperative differences in QoL between the two groups highlighted problems with social function and role-playing, fatigue, activity, recreation, and overall reduction in QoL. Women, and those who do not drink alcohol, are at particularly high risk of developing trismus, and, to prevent it and treat it, patients may benefit from multidisciplinary management at an early stage during treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking
  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant / adverse effects
  • Cranial Irradiation / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Forecasting
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Oral Surgical Procedures / adverse effects*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality of Life*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Tertiary Care Centers
  • Trismus / etiology*
  • Trismus / psychology*