Objective: To evaluate changes in patient-perceived swallowing function over time following transoral robotic surgery (TORS) for primary T1 and T2 oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinomas.
Design: Prospective case series.
Setting: Academic tertiary referral center.
Patients: Forty-two patients with T1 or T2 oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinomas.
Intervention: TORS-assisted resection of indicated tumors.
Main outcome measures: Changes in patient-perceived swallowing function over time (using the M. D. Anderson Dysphagia Inventory) and gastrostomy tube dependence.
Results: Between March 19, 2007, and April 21, 2010, forty-two patients with primary T1 or T2 oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinomas underwent TORS-assisted resection. Most (76% [32 of 42]) patients had stage III disease; 93% (39 of 42) of patients underwent staged neck dissection. The median postoperative follow-up time was 17 months (range, 4-40 months). There were no complications or tumor recurrences. Postoperative chemotherapy use predicted gastrostomy tube retention for longer than 3 months (P = .01). Immediate mean postoperative M. D. Anderson Dysphagia Inventory scores in each assessed domain (global, emotional, physical, and functional) decreased compared with preoperative baseline scores; however, ongoing improvement in all domains was observed over time. Nodal status (P = .049), follow-up time of less than 12 months (P = .03), and preoperative physical scores of less than 100 (P = .01) predicted poorer physical M. D. Anderson Dysphagia Inventory outcomes. Positive pathological margins predicted poorer functional scores (P = .03).
Conclusions: After TORS-assisted resection of T1 and T2 oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinomas, approximately one-third of patients will experience a sustained decrease in perceived swallowing function. However, ongoing improvement of swallowing function over time is likely even after 12 months. Patients receiving adjuvant chemotherapy after TORS should be counseled about the possibility of prolonged gastrostomy tube dependence.