Impact of surgical margins on local control in patients undergoing single-modality transoral robotic surgery for HPV-related oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma

Head Neck. 2021 Aug;43(8):2434-2444. doi: 10.1002/hed.26708. Epub 2021 Apr 15.


Background: The impact of close surgical margins on oncologic outcomes in HPV-related oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (HPV + OPSCC) is unclear.

Methods: Retrospective case series including patients undergoing single modality transoral robotic surgery (TORS) for HPV + OPSCC at three academic medical centers from 2010 to 2019. Outcomes were compared between patients with close surgical margins (<1 mm or requiring re-resection) and clear margins using the Kaplan-Meier method.

Results: Ninety-nine patients were included (median follow-up 21 months, range 6-121). Final margins were close in 22 (22.2%) patients, clear in 75 (75.8%), and positive in two (2.0%). Eight patients (8.1%) recurred, including two local recurrences (2.0%). Four patients died during the study period (4.0%). Local control (p = 0.470), disease-free survival (p = 0.513), and overall survival (p = 0.064) did not differ between patients with close and clear margins.

Conclusions: Patients with close surgical margins after TORS for HPV + OPSCC without concurrent indications for adjuvant therapy may be considered for observation alone.

Keywords: human papillomavirus; oropharynx; squamous cell carcinoma; surgical margins; transoral robotic surgery.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell* / surgery
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms*
  • Humans
  • Margins of Excision
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local
  • Oropharyngeal Neoplasms* / surgery
  • Papillomavirus Infections* / complications
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Robotic Surgical Procedures*
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma of Head and Neck