Transoral robotic surgery and intensity-modulated radiotherapy in the treatment of the oropharyngeal carcinoma: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 2021 May;278(5):1321-1335. doi: 10.1007/s00405-020-06224-z. Epub 2020 Jul 21.


Purpose: To perform a meta-analysis evaluating trans-oral robotic surgery (TORS), and intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) in the treatment of oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OPSCC).

Methods: This study adhered to the PRISMA guidelines.

Results: A total of 5624 patients (IMRT, n = 4322; TORS, n = 1302) were included in this meta-analysis. The majority of patients in the IMRT cohort were treated with concurrent CT (n = 3433, 81.3%). On the other hand, the majority of patients in the TORS cohort was treated with an adjuvant treatment (n = 826, 67.8%). IMRT subgroup showed a cumulative survival rate of 83.6% (99% CI 76.9-89.3%), while it was 91.3% (99% CI 81.2-97.8%) in the TORS subgroup. Disease-free survival was significantly different between IMRT (79.6%, 99% CI 70.6-87.3%), and TORS (89.4%, 99% CI 82.7-94.5%). IMRT subgroup showed a feeding tube dependence rate of 4.0% (99% CI 1.1-8.4%), but it was not significantly different from the TORS subgroup (1.3%, 99% CI 0-4.9%). Tracheostomy dependence rates were similar among the two subgroups (IMRT, 0.7%, 99% CI 0-1.1%; TORS, 0.2%, 99% CI 0-1.1%).

Conclusions: TORS appears to be a consolidated effective surgical approach in the management of OPSCC, according to both oncologic and functional outcomes. Further RCTs comparing TORS and IMRT with homogeneous cohorts in terms of tumor staging and HPV status are advisable.

Keywords: Human papillomavirus; IMRT; Oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma; Quality of life; Survival; TORS.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Head and Neck Neoplasms*
  • Humans
  • Oropharyngeal Neoplasms* / radiotherapy
  • Oropharyngeal Neoplasms* / surgery
  • Radiotherapy, Intensity-Modulated*
  • Robotic Surgical Procedures*
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma of Head and Neck