A systematic review and meta-analysis of margins in transoral surgery for oropharyngeal carcinoma

Oral Oncol. 2019 Nov:98:69-77. doi: 10.1016/j.oraloncology.2019.09.017. Epub 2019 Sep 20.


Background: The objective of this study was to conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis of the incidence of positive surgical margins after transoral surgery for oropharyngeal carcinoma, as well as the factors associated with positive margins and their impact on local tumor control.

Method: An electronic search of English-language literature databases was conducted, and a systematic review was performed in accordance with the PRISMA guidelines.

Results: A total of 42 articles were included in the analysis. The overall rate of positive margins using transoral conventional surgery (CTS), transoral laser microsurgery (TLM), or transoral robotic surgery (TORS) was 7.8% in a cumulative total of 3619 patients. A positive margin status was associated with a reduction in local control. Assessment of intraoperative frozen sections was associated with a reduced risk of definitive positive margins, whereas a T4 classification was associated with an increased risk of definitive positive margins. Neither the primary site (the tonsillar fossa versus the base of the tongue), nor the HPV status, were associated with the margin status. The level of heterogeneity between the various studies was very high.

Conclusion: The currently used transoral procedures are safe in regard to proper tumor resection and they should continue to be part of the armamentarium of surgical techniques used in head and neck surgery. The very high level of heterogeneity between studies calls for a definition consensus for margin status assessments in transoral surgery.

Keywords: Margins; Oropharyngeal carcinoma; Transoral laser microsurgery; Transoral robotic surgery; Transoral surgery.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Laser Therapy / methods
  • Male
  • Margins of Excision*
  • Microsurgery / methods
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Oropharyngeal Neoplasms / etiology
  • Oropharyngeal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Oropharyngeal Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Publication Bias
  • Robotic Surgical Procedures
  • Treatment Outcome